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Twenty-sixth Week in Ordinary Time

Amos 6:4-7; 1 Tim. 6:11-16 & Luke 16:19-31

Religious faith brings good out of some people and bad out of others.

Some become generous, kind and loving. Others become cold, harsh and cruel. It motivated Saint Francis of Assisi to renounce a personal fortune and lead a life of selfless devotion in the service of the poor. It has also motivated countless suicide bombers to destroy, not only their lives, but the lives of thousands of innocent people. Religious faith is a powerful force both for good and evil. Most of the people I am speaking to today are Christians: what is the impact of our Christian faith doing to our character and on the quality of our lives?

It should make us strong and tough-minded. The Apostle Paul urged his young friend Timothy to “aim to be saintly and religious, filled with faith and love, patient and gentle.” After the enumerating of these beautiful traits follows that challenge, “Fight the good fight of faith.” The implication is quite clear. In this world if you want to be a saint, living a life of faith and love, being patient and gentle, then you must be prepared to put up a fight.

Is this spirit of struggle sadly lacking in many of us today? Do we think of faith as a pillow God gives us to comfort us instead of looking upon it as a challenge to make us strong? Look at the qualities Jesus produced in the lives of His first followers. He drew out of them a strength and a courage that none of them ever dreamt they possessed. It is also true that He gave them great comfort for Jesus could be as gentle and patient as a mother. But He warned those who heeded His words and followed Him that life would be hard. He ended His Sermon on the Mount with these words, “Rain came down, floods rose, gales blew and hurled themselves against that house, and it did not fall: it was founded on rock.” St Francis of Assisi is just one of millions who built his house on rock. Religious faith had made him strong. He fought the good fight.

Religious faith should also make us tender and sensitive to the needs of people. In today’s Gospel Jesus told a story in two separate scenes about the lives of a rich man and a beggar. The rich man lived a sumptuous life while the beggar who lived at his gate was destitute. The beggar would have been happy to live off the scraps from the rich man’s table. They both died and the second scene takes place beyond the grave. Now it is the turn of the beggar to live in comfort and rest, while the rich man finds himself in the abode of the dead, where he is tormented by flames and longs for just a few drops of cold water to cool his tongue.

This story is a vivid reminder that Jesus took seriously the plight of the poor and was deeply troubled by the painful contrast between wealth and poverty. Our Lord never became used to human deprivation. If He witnessed it, He had to do what He could to alleviate it. He could not understand those who were indifferent to it. He strongly warned them of the consequences coming to them if they did not notice it.

In Jesus’ story there is no mention of the rich man ever being abusive to the beggar or responsible for his plight. He simply didn’t notice him. The beggar became part of the landscape. That too could happen to us. We repeatedly watch on our televisions the plight of those in the third world who face starvation and disease. Have we become unaware of their actual suffering? Amos took his religion seriously and blazed in anger against those who were ‘ensconced snugly in Zion’ and were completely unmoved by the plight of their fellow citizens.

So what is our religion doing to us? Is it making us strong to fight the good fight and making us tender and sensitive so that we never get used to human need, no matter how often we see it?

Lord Jesus may we take our religion seriously and feel the pain of human hunger and loneliness, as if it were our own. When we spend time with You help us to develop a sensitive conscience that cares deeply about the hurts and heartaches of those around us.

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