Caring For Our Neighbor

26th Sunday of Ordinary Time
By Fr. Chinnappan Pelavendran

The story is told of a Franciscan monk in Australia, who was assigned to be the guide to St. Mother Teresa when she visited New South Wales. The monk was thrilled and excited at being so close to this great woman. He dreamed of how much he would learn from her. But, during her visit, he became frustrated. There were always other people for her to meet. Finally, her tour was over and she was about to fly to her next destination. The Franciscan friar spoke to Mother Teresa: “If I pay my own fare to New Guinea, can I sit next to you on the plane so I can talk to you and learn from you?” Mother Teresa looked at him and said: “Do you have enough money to pay airfare to New Guinea?” He replied eagerly, “Yes!” Mother said, “Give that money to the poor. You will learn more from that than anything I can tell you.

God speaks to us in many ways and touches our lives but we often fail to listen to him. He speaks to us in gentle ways and guides us in our weaknesses. The readings of today give us the values of the kingdom of God, which is different from all worldly values. It tells us that we, as the children of God, have the obligation and duty to look after our brothers and sisters and care for them. We all belong to the one family of God.

The prophet Amos, in the first reading, gives a powerful warning to those who seek wealth at the expense of the poor: people who spend their time and their money on themselves alone. He prophesies that those rich and self-indulgent people will be punished by God because they don’t care for their poor, suffering brothers and sisters.

In today’s second reading, St. Paul reminds Timothy, who was an ordained priest and consecrated Bishop, of the Faith he had confessed at his Baptism, He reminded him of his obligation to pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. He reminded him of his ongoing call to bear witness to Christ as a loyal teacher and example of that faith. The message for us is that the generous sharing of our talents and resources is the necessary response to our Christian commitment.

All the parables of our Lord are based on everyday happenings. In today’s gospel, we are tempted to ask the question, “Why was the rich man punished?” He did not kick Lazarus, he was not cruel to him. He was punished because he continued to commit a sin of omission. He never noticed Lazarus as a human being and a brother. He did no wrong, but he did nothing good, either. He neglected the poor beggar at his door by not helping him to treat his illness nor giving him a small house to live in. He totally ignored the poor people around him, which was Cain’s attitude: “Am I the guardian of my brother?” It is not wrong to be rich, but it is wrong not to share our blessings with our brothers and sisters.

Today’s readings teach us an important lesson: it reminds us that all of us will experience God’s justice after our death. We are all rich enough to share our blessings with others. God has blessed each one of us with wealth, health, special talents, social power, political influence, or many other blessings. The parable invites us to share, in various ways, what we have been given, not use everything for selfish gains.

In today’s world, who are the poor we must not neglect? The unborn. We need to treat the unborn as our brother or sister Lazarus of this century. The rich man was condemned for not treating Lazarus as his brother. We also will be condemned for our selfishness if we do not treat the preborn as our brother and sister. We might think: “Who am I to interfere with a woman’s choice to abort?” I am a brother, a sister of that child in the womb. Finally, I am a follower of the One who said, “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do to me.

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