(Part 22)


May 19, 2016

Today’s readings:

James 5:1-6

Psalm 49:14-20

Mark 9:41-50

In the early Church there was no one in need. The formula was simple. Those who had possessions sold them and gave the money to the poor. Today that is still the same simple formula. There are more than enough resources in the world, but such resources are unevenly and unjustly distributed. There are those who are very rich and those who are very poor. The rich need to give to the poor.

There are those rich who directly deprive the poor of what is theirs. “Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud” (Jas 5:4a). These rich pay less than a just wage, withhold just benefits, have sorry working conditions. There are those rich who just live off the fat while being unmindful of those in dire need. “You have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure” (Jas 5:5a). Such was the case with the rich man and Lazarus. Whether directly or indirectly, such rich deprive the poor of what God intends for them to have. In the direst circumstances, many of the powerless poor are condemned to misery and even death. “You have condemned; you have murdered the righteous one; he offers you no resistance.” (Jas 5:6).

Such injustice for God’s beloved poor cries out to heaven. There will be hell to pay (pun intended). As “the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts” (Jas 5:4b), then the unjust rich must know their fate: “you have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter.” (Jas 5:5b).

What then must the rich do to avoid such a fate? They must be mindful of the poor, and share their resources. They must know that how they use their worldly riches on earth will impact on their eternal lives. “Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries. Your wealth has rotted away, your clothes have become moth-eaten, your gold and silver have corroded, and that corrosion will be a testimony against you; it will devour your flesh like a fire. You have stored up treasure for the last days.” (Jas 5:1-3). The rich continue to accumulate more riches. For what? “At his death he will not take along anything, his glory will not go down after him.” (Ps 49:18).

The rich, and everyone else, should look to eternity. What assures our eternal reward in heaven? It is what we do to the least of our brethren, which is what we do to Jesus himself. “Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.” (Mk 9:41). And what about one’s possessions? I paraphrase Mark 9:43-47: “If your possessions cause you to sin, cut it off (give it away). It is better for you to enter into the kingdom of God without riches than with riches into the unquenchable fire.”

*     *     *