Reflection for Sunday – September 18, 2022

Readings: Amos 8: 4-7; 1 Timothy 2: 1-8; Luke 16: 1-13 
Preacher: Deni Mack

As I prayed with these readings from Amos, Timothy and Luke, I succumbed to a distracting temptation—I read my texts.  Little did I think the scriptures would come alive on my iPhone in a most horrific way!  A family we love is being evicted! The wage earner, a young woman is recovering from surgery. She did well learning English, graduated from RCSC International Academy and held her job until illness took over. The landlord played us “do-gooders” along, making promises to us and to this precious family even though this landlord was unwilling to keep promises.

Amos says to the landlord, “Hear this, you who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor.” Also, according to Amos, God will not forget what the landlord has done.  Yet, today’s Psalm, “God lifts up the poor…raises up the lowly from the dust; from the dunghill he lifts up the poor to seat them with princes.”

Seeing no signs of this homeless family being welcome anywhere near princes we pray that they at least find a safe, affordable home, soon.  1Timothy advises that prayers, petitions and thanksgivings be offered for everyone.  That is what we are doing.  We are praying for T, the mom, M and D the working children and L, A and P who are too young to work.  We pray especially for D, who has been near death and received life saving surgery.  We pray for their homeland that is still in turmoil, where there was and is no access to food or income. We pray with them in their grief since their father died and in their fear having been evicted.  We pray also for their landlord.  As Timothy insists, we pray without anger or argument.

Prayer drives us to act on this family’s behalf.  We call Catholic Family Center’s Refugee Resettlement staff.  They trained us a few years ago and continue to be a helpful resource.  We call Mary’s Place Refugee Services where T has found English as a Second Language class as well as a community of support.  We call Refugees Helping Refugees in the hopes someone can help find them an apartment.  We call the lawyer who volunteered and won a stay of eviction that the landlord is ignoring.  We call the woman from HUD as she was a help in winning the stay of eviction that the landlord ignores.  We call the Mercy fund at our church to alert them that we will be asking for first month’s rent as soon as an apartment is found.  And we come up with the money for the security deposit as well as the people to help protect the family’s belongings while they are homeless.  We check with Family Promise (formerly called RAIHN) to see if they can make room for T’s family as they search for more permanent housing. 

I wish you could see this family. Your heart would melt. Their teachers love them and want the best for them. How can the children learn when they do not know where they will sleep and eat?  How many other children are in similar distress? In Rochester, every night 400 people are homeless.  What can be done about any of this?

We can do better as a society and surely as a city and as a nation.  This family’s troubles are common in a city considered one of the five most impoverished cities in the nation.  So, as good stewards we ask, what policies and procedures keep poor people poor while the rich get richer?  Catholic Social Teaching, built on prophets Amos and Micah, on Isaiah 61 and Luke 4:16-21, the letter to James, many more sacred scripture—and the Saints who inspire us to apply biblical imperatives to every aspect of life.  St Ignatius (of Loyola) Spiritual Exercises help us chose between two standards named in today’s Gospel, God and mammon. We chose God. So do those who selflessly come through in crisis and serve with love.

Because in our polarized society there is a loudly expressed suspicion that refugees will become dependent on agency’s services I hasten to assure you that we’ve sponsored families who are amazingly resilient, consistently hard workers and independent.  And they’re our very good friends.  God gives us the courage and know-how to stand up for and support people in need.

Denise Mack