Why Rich and Poor?
Twenty-Sixth Sunday of the Year. Fr Duncan Campbell challenges us each to reflect on how we can help those who are poor.
One of the things that must strike us is the indifference of the rich, to the poor – the poor often on their doorstep. It’s made so clear in Jesus’ story in the gospel. Our News media depict terrible poverty everywhere. The plight of so many people, in such hardship, is seen, at home, on our screens. How can there be such indifference? We may find we know. We ourselves may not be very rich, but we aren’t likely to be exactly poor. So let’s examine ourselves, and we may see how it happens.
One reason is the company we keep. We tend to live, and meet regularly, with people like ourselves, where problems of impoverishment may not come up. Another is that we simply must have the same life-style as our neighbours. Thirdly – this may not be our situation – but if we are beside, or astride, the money flow, we simply expect, with others like ourselves, to scoop lots of it, and because we can, we do. And how impracticable it would be to take all the money from the rich to share among the poor. Money has to be earned, or wouldn’t there be idleness everywhere? There are grim lessons too from history. Attempts in the past to arrange and force equality have led to dreadful dictatorships. A ‘Command’ economy nearly always breaks down, in corruption, violence and chaos. The free-for-all economy of supply-and-‘Demand’, where most of us live, in spite of all the inequalities that result, seems to be the only system that works. It guarantees freedom, with elected assemblies and governments easily changed, an independent justice system, and a free press . It gives – most of us – a good life-style, and has done, to people all over the world, for many years now.
But we listen to Jesus’ story because, deep down, we know better. We feel that the poor, and the suffering, deserve, and need, and will get – ‘consolation’, somewhere, somehow – ‘Abraham’s bosom’. We know that lack of the love; that we should have noticed and helped the poor and suffering, must come to light, in shame, and remorse – ‘Torment in Hades’. Historians, and people, in future – and God – will judge, harshly, our world, where millions die of starvation, and millions of obesity. What can we do? It is very difficult, and dangerous. Archbishop Romero, before he was killed, had said, ‘When I help the poor, they call me a Saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a Communist’. We must examine our politics, local, national and international. Much can be done here, and we must be in it. Personally, we can do a lot. Respond to appeals. Support the free press that can expose injustices, buying papers which may make us uncomfortable, but tell us the truth. Examine in detail our politics, which can be so haphazard, experimental and confused, drifting along without much sense of direction, or community, or obligation. We can live ‘in’ our parish community, and help our parish live ‘in’ the wider community. People of all classes and backgrounds come to church with us, or, significantly, don’t come to church with us – we should investigate this.
We meet many different people. We can make friends with them, come to understand, and perhaps help them. We could even learn from them. We hear Jesus’ words about the Kingdom of God, every Sunday, words which affect us, in time. They must work and come to life in us. They are what we must want to come true. ‘Thy Kingdom come’. Prayer isn’t wishful thinking. It’s adopting a policy. A very good feature of real parish life is the amount of unpaid voluntary work offered. Is this a whiff of the Kingdom of God to come? I don’t know what we will be doing in Heaven, but whatever it will be, it will surely be done for love, not money. It could be done, much more, here and now, in this way, if we learn our obligations as well as our rights, listening to Jesus.