Saturday, September 29, 2007

Compete well for the faith rather than wealth.

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mass Readings:
Amos 6:1a, 4-7
1 Timothy 6:11-16
Luke 16:19-31

A very popular train of thought in Christianity these days is that if you are rich then it is a sign that you are blessed by God. Material wealth is a sign of how faithful one is and how God is so very generous. I have a big problem with that way of thinking and here's why. I know a lot of very poor people who are very, very faithful to God. So what gives? Does God have a grudge against these holy people? Have these people done something so wrong that God doesn't want them to have adequate sustenance, shelter or health care? What happens if one Christian is rich while another is poor? Does this mean that God loves some people more than others?

Most people would be horrified if someone was to teach that if you are poor then God doesn't love you. Yet I find that the "Prosperity Gospel" comes dangerously close to saying that.

Our first reading today is a harsh one. The Prophet Amos is calling to the religious folk to share the wealth. The prophet even invokes the great figure of faith, David. King David was a man after God's own heart. God loved him and set him over His people to rule with justice and mercy. Unfortunately, David's heart and soul became lazy. David's great empire would fall in on itself due to greed, lust, murder and abandonment of faith. David would watch as debauchery infested his kingdom and destroyed it from the inside out. So much for prosperity! It cost David everything because it became more important than God.

Our Gospel today is a very familiar one. It makes us uncomfortable, all this about dogs licking the poor, hungry, sick Lazarus. It should make us very, very uncomfortable because that is what Jesus intended!Jesus wants us to be appalled and sickened by the scene! Jesus is addressing a group that is content in it's wealth and power and sense of superiority. The Pharisees had no problem placing burdens upon other's while they sought a life of ease and luxury. They did this at the expense of the most defenseless and poor. I think we can see how that is happening even today!

Jesus sought to remind these folk that because they have been fortunate they have an obligation, a calling to see to it that those in need are cared for. This ties in to the whole "to whom much has been given much is expected" stuff Jesus so boldly proclaimed. To have much means that much is expected. To be blessed with wealth and power means that it must be used to help the most defenseless and poor. To sit back and demand more at the expense of others, is sinful and Jesus calls it out for what it is, greed. Contrary to popular belief, greed is not good! Greed is a disease that eats away at the soul and destroys one's relationship with God.

So what do today's readings want from us? I believe that it is summed up with one sentence from Timothy. "Compete well for the faith". What could be more important than giving it all we've got to have a strong faith? We tend to work ourselves to death in order to have the latest and greatest this or that, a bigger house, a fancier car, etc., while we ignore our soul. We do so at our own peril.

Last weekend's Gospel had Jesus Telling us that we cannot serve both God and wealth. If we do, one is going to lose out and it usually isn't wealth. God becomes less important to us when we spend all of our time trying to get more and more stuff.

So what do we think would happen if we were to put as much effort in to our faith as we do getting ahead in the world? Wealth will come and go but our faith is our life. there is nothing more important than our relationship with God and relationships with one another. If we put everything in to getting rich and ignoring the things of God, we may gain the world but we lose our soul. As Christians, I believe that we must seek to make the world a better place for everyone and not just self. What good does it matter if we are rich and powerful yet facing down God's judgment for not being faithful?

Compete well for the faith my friends and may we all follow God's call to serve!