Reflection for Sunday – February 5, 2017

Readings: Isaiah 58:7-10; 1 Corinthians 2:1-5; Matthew 5: 13-16
Preacher: Margie Benza

Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, the Joy of the Gospel, brings to light the readings of Isaiah, Corinthians and Matthew. The line, “they fail to move us,” has permeated within me these last few weeks.

The teaching reads, “The ‘excluded’ are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase. In the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.”

In that small paragraph, there are many bold statements and questions that we find difficult to review in our busy, task-oriented lives. Are we incapable of feeling compassion for the “outcry of the poor?” Are we impatient with someone always needing something? Are we guilty of not looking through eyes of compassion? Or of ignoring the call of Jesus because it’s not comfortable? How could we fail to be moved?

We hear the cry of poor every day. You can’t deny it, but has your heart been listening when it arrives? Do we hear the need for friendship, or the call for compassionate kindness? Do we hear the call that is sometimes the hardest—the call of financial support.

Dare we use the word obligation? It’s not one easily swallowed. It makes concrete the call of the poor. Not a comfortable word in a single-minded and immediate gratification society.

Years ago I was asked to accompany a friend on a Thanksgiving basket delivery to the inner city. Being in the midst of my own early preparations, it was more of an interruption but I agreed to go along. As we drew closer to our destination, I realized it wasn’t disruption that morning, but a reluctance based on fear. This was not in my comfort zone. Why did I agree to do this? Can’t I wait in the car?

We arrived and were greeted by three little ones in a dark, unkept home in the middle of a bright day with sheet-less mattresses on the floor and windows draped in blankets. A six-year-old was feeding his newborn brother as the exhausted mother approached holding an 18-month-old.

We soon discovered that they were nearly out of formula and diapers and that the food we brought would be tonight’s menu. We left for the store in search of diapers, formula and groceries. I was the “minority” as we entered the store. My “comfort” level was in high gear. On return, the children yelped with excitement as they grabbed the boxes of cereal. My friend offered some encouraging words and we said our goodbyes.

This family became my prayer over the next week. A reality check in the midst of my very small world, broadened by the prompting of Jesus. Its gift an offered opportunity of conversion.

Matthew’s gospel calls us to be the salt of the earth; disciples of preservation and enhancement in our “world” today. To be light in our relationships with families, friends, neighbors, city, nation and world. To set out every day in prayer—being attune and aware. To be disciples of Christ in faith and deed with a clear vision of our responsibility.

Through our baptism in Jesus, that opportunity is always present within us. We have a choice in how we respond daily to those we encounter. We can serve with love and charity, not motivated by others’ opinions or by our judgment of what people deserve.

We should be willing to clear our blurred vision and follow the sometimes radical and uncomfortable path of Jesus. We should bring ourselves out of our own darkness of ignorance and apathy to the light of care and compassion. We must share the Good News by our decisions and our actions—led by the Spirit and moved by our Gospel values.

Margie Benza
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