SUNDAY REFLECTION (25-09-2016) THEME: “WARNING AGAINST SELFISHNESS/EGOISM”

SUNDAY REFLECTION (25-09-2016)
THEME: “WARNING AGAINST SELFISHNESS/EGOISM”


There
was a selfish rich man who liked everything to be his own. He could not share
his belongings with anyone, not even with his friends or the poor. On a certain
day, the man lost thirty gold coins. He went to his poor friend’s house and
told him how he lost his gold coins. His friend was a kind man. As his friend’s
daughter was returning from an errand she found thirty gold coins. When she
arrived home, she told her father what she had found. The girl’s father told
her that the gold coins most probably belong to his friend and he sent for him.
When the selfish man arrived, he told him how his daughter had found his thirty
gold coins and handed then to him. After
counting the gold coins the man said that ten of them were missing and had been
taken by the girl as he had forty gold coins. He further commented that he will
recover the remaining amount from him. But the girl’s father refused. The man left the gold coins and made a
court case out of the issue. On the appointed day, the judge asked the girl how
many gold coins she found. She replied thirty gold coins. Consequently, he
asked the selfish man how many gold coins did he lose and he answered forty
gold coins. The judge then told
the man that the gold coins did not belong to him because the girl found thirty
and not forty as he claimed to have lost and then told the girl to take the
gold coins and that if anybody is looking for them he will send for the girl. The judge told the man that if anybody
reports that they have found forty gold coins he will send for him. It was then
that the man confessed that he lied and that he lost thirty gold coins but the
judge did not listen to him. 
The moral of the story is centered on the ill of
selfishness; put differently, it warns us against this terrible vice. Also generally
known as egoism, it is being concerned excessively or exclusively
for oneself or one’s own advantage, pleasure, or welfare, regardless of others.
Selfishness is the opposite of altruism. Altruism is a word coined by the French
philosopher, Auguste Comte, as “altruisme”, (for an antonym of
egoism); which is the principle or practice of concern for the welfare of
others. In consonance, the central theme
of our Sunday Readings warns against selfishness and stress on the
responsibility of the rich for the poor, reminding us of the truth that wealth
without active mercy for the poor is great wickedness.
Amos,
in the First Reading, (Amos 6:1, 4-7) launches
a powerful warning to those who seek wealth at the expense of the poor (just as
I described in the story above) and who spend their time and their money on
themselves alone (selfishness). As stated in last week’s reflection, Amos was
an 8TH Century B.C prophet, the first of the “writing prophets” during the 38-year span when
Uzziah was king of Judah (781-743 BC). He lived through the harrowing moments
of his time. When it comes to the lack of justice, he was able to challenge the
situation tremendously. In his time, the system was marked by corruption,
exploitation of man by man etc. He engaged in the “fight” for a more
just, supportive and a corruption free society. Amos was the cry of the peasant
population (the poor) exploited by the system. It is quite pertinent to note
that Amos’ prophetic message from the Lord was from the backdrop of a series of
oracles, words and woes, and visions. Today’s first reading is taken from the
backdrop of woe (6:1-14), concerning self-indulgence, an excellent companion
text for today’s Gospel. He prophesies that those rich and selfish people will
be punished by God with exile because they don’t care for their poor and
suffering brothers. This is a great lesson for us Christians, especially those
who let their wealth stink into their brains. For this category of people, the
psalmist in Ps 49:20 says: “in his riches, man lacks wisdom; he is like the
beasts that are destroyed”.
The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 146:7,
8-9, 9-10)
in line with today’s message, praises God who cares for the
poor; who secures justice for the oppressed, gives
food to the hungry; the Lord who sets captives free. This is a clarion call for
us to learn from the good deeds of the Lord and do the same to our brothers and
sisters around us.
The Second Reading, (1 Timothy 6:11-16) in the light of our message,
drives home some life-lessons to us.  It is apposite to understand that 1Timothy is
classified among the Pastoral Letters (along with 2 Timothy and Titus); it was
written towards the end of the first century (after the death of Paul) by
Paul’s disciple who was familiar with Paul’s teachings and concerns. In today’s
passage, the disciple, (using the name of Paul) reminds Timothy (who held a
position in the church at Ephesus like that of the modern Bishop) of the
realities and challenges of the Christian life. After warning Timothy (in
6: 10) that “the love of
money is the root of all kinds of evil,
he reminds Timothy of the Faith he
had confessed at his Baptism, of his obligation to “pursue righteousness,
devotion, faith love, patience and gentleness”  and of his ongoing call to
bear witness to Christ as a loyal teacher of the Faith. This pastoral letter to
Timothy is meant for us today. Therefore, Paul admonishes us to “pursue
righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience and gentleness”
 – noble goals in an age of
disillusionment – rather than riches.
The
Gospel reading has always been known to drive practical lessons to us. In line
with our Sunday’s theme (warning against selfishness), the Gospel Reading (LK 16:19-31) presents to us the parable of the Rich
man and Lazarus (the poor man). The parable presents the luxurious life of the
rich man in costly dress, who dined sumptuously every day, in contrast to the
miserable life of the poor and sick beggar (Lazarus) living in the street by
the rich man’s front door, competing with the dogs for the crumbs discarded
from the rich man’s dining table. As the curtain goes up for the second scene,
the situation is reversed. The beggar Lazarus is enjoying Heavenly bliss as a
reward for his fidelity to God in his poverty and suffering, while the rich man
is thrown down into the excruciating suffering of Hell as punishment for not
doing his duty of showing mercy to the poor, for not sharing with the beggar at
his door with the blessings God has given him.
The
poor and the oppressed are considered as part of the beneficiaries or
recipients of the Gospel according to Luke. Luke records this in his Gospel as
Christ’s mission statement (in Luke 4: 18-19). From this view, it becomes easy
to understand why Christ told the parable. The reasons are as follows:
1.
Jesus told this parable to condemn the Pharisees for their love of money and
lack of mercy for the poor
2.
He also used the parable to correct three Jewish misconceptions held and taught
by the Sadducees that material prosperity in this life is God’s reward for
moral uprightness, while poverty and illness are God’s punishment for sins.
Hence, there is no need to help the poor and the sick for they have been cursed
by God. The Sadducees also taught that, since wealth is a sign of God’s
blessing, the best way of thanking God is to enjoy it by leading a life of
luxury and self-indulgence in dress, eating and drinking, of course, after
giving God His portion as tithe.
3.
In the parable, Jesus also addresses the false doctrine of the Sadducees
denying the survival of the soul after death, and the consequent retribution
our deeds and neglects in this life receive in the next. Jesus challenges these
misconceptions through the parable and condemns the rich who ignore the poor
they encounter. 
Dear
friends in Christ, why do we really think that the rich man was punished in
hell? After all, Jesus did not mention any sin committed by him… The response
is quite simple: aside from the sin of commission, there is also what is called
sin of omission. Put simply, the rich man neglected the poor beggar at his door
by not helping him to treat his illness or giving him a small house to live in.
He ignored the indications of Sacred Scriptures about God’s commandment in the
book of Leviticus (15: 7-11) “Don’t
deny help to the poor. Be liberal in helping the widows and the homeless.”
  He also led a life of luxury and
self-indulgence totally ignoring the poor people around him. This negligence is
seen in Cain’s attitude: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” It is not wrong to be rich, but it is wrong not
to share our blessings with our less fortunate brothers and sisters.
St.
Ambrose once wrote: You are not making a gift of your possessions to the poor
person, you are handing over to him what is his. For what has been given in
common for the use of all, you have abrogated to yourself. The world is given
to all, and not only the rich. St. Basil, in a much-quoted homily, once
declared that the bread we clutch in our hands belongs to the starving, the
cloak we keep locked in our closet belongs to the naked, the shoes we are not
using belong to the barefooted.

For
the many times we have acted like the rich selfish man in our own capacity by
neglecting the poor and the suffering, we pray that the good Lord would have
mercy on us, and grant us the grace to be more generous and sensitive to the
needs of the poor around us. Amen. 
HAPPY 26TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR C
SHALOM!!!

CLICK HERE TO READ: “SUNDAY REFLECTION (18-09-2016): BEING A FAITHFUL STEWARD”

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