My Dear Sisters and Brothers! What a spot on commentary on today’s Gospel. The Gospel passage which is not limited to the audience made of millionaires. It is the Word of God for all of us. We may not have resources to eradicate social injustices in our countries but we do have a new heart and a new spirit in us to see misery of others in our communities and to reach out to them.
Prophet Ezekiel passed on this message from God: ‘I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you: I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.’ As Christians we treasure this message which is fulfilled in the awesome moment of our Baptism, sustained and nurtured in our active participating in the Holy Eucharist and through the Sacrament of Confirmation driving us out of our complacency so that we may live out Jesus’ words: ‘Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did to me.’ Jesus also went on to say: ‘Whatever you neglected to do to one of the least of theses brothers and sisters of mine, you neglected to do it to me.’
The rich man from today’s parable was not condemned for some atrocious crimes he did. He condemned himself to hell by turning his wealth into his god. This worship of wealth and prosperity isolated him from others. St Luke wrote that the parties of the rich man were dazzling to the extent that they blinded him to see anything around him. The rich man from today’s Gospel condemned himself to hell by neglecting to do good.
My Dear fellow believers! I grew up in a country where a socialist movement was promising to eradicate situations like the one Jesus spoke of in the Gospel. However it was a way to gain political power over the country in the name of implementing social changes. Ultimately it wasn’t about the poor and the disadvantage but about having control over the nation.
Last year Pope Francis canonised Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, who was shot dead in 1980 when he celebrated Mass. Guiding his local Church in difficult times, when the Church faced various difficulties, he made this observation: ‘Not any and every priest has been persecuted, not any and every institution has been attacked. That part of the Church has been attacked and persecuted that put itself on the side of the people and went to the people’s defence. Here again we find the same key to understanding the persecution of the Church: the poor.’
Before his blood was mingled with the blood of Christ on the altar after he was shot Bishop Oscar Roero immersed himself in the life and misery of the poor. He went out to find the poor. In his last homily, just minutes before he was martyred he preached: ‘Those who surrender to the service of the poor through love of Christ will live like grain of wheat that dies. The harvest comes because of the grain that dies.’ He died literally because he refused to turn a blind eye to the misery of the poor. For most of us it means dying to our comfort, self-justification etc.
Dear fellow Christians! On Tuesday we begin the month of October. Our Holy Father Pope Francis has announced that October 2019 will be Extraordinary Missionary Month in the Catholic Church. I invite you to visit http://www.october2019.va/en.html to cultivate in you a missionary heart and spirit. However this missionary month is not about some religious propaganda. It is rather about the movement which the rich man from today’s Gospel failed to make: to reach out to those in need. It is not only about the poor who my come to us. It is about the poor whom our Catholic heart inspires us to look for. Saint Oscar Romero once said: ‘The most profound social revolution is the serious, interior reform of a Christian.’ If the poor find in us the care, compassion and tenderness of Jesus Christ we are truly missionaries of the Risen Lord.