Fear is cast out…when we find a way to serve others
When we hear Jesus talking about destruction, our first thought is often “fear.” But the real message of Jesus is salvation = liberation. Sadly, the reality is that many important and precious things in our lives have to be lost before we truly appreciate their place in our lives.
There are two realities facing our world at the moment:
1) there’s a lot of uncertainty in the world: many people are afraid, others confused; who can we trust? United Nations? America? European Union? Politicians or Church leaders?
2) a growing breakdown of trust of our Religious Leaders: sexual abuse scandals and now financial scandals. It’s a great shame. On top of this, clericalism is a problem: where priests and religious make themselves comfortable at the expense of poorer people.
The First Reading encourages us to believe that corrupt and abusive leaders will not last for ever. However, I believe there is a part that depends on us: the more people cooperate with corrupt/evil leaders, the longer they will last. So, it’s a challenge, but also an invitation to be part of the solution. But do we really trust God enough to live by the truth?
In the Second Reading, St Paul has strong words to say about not giving food to people who do not work. At the time it was more about physical work, I presume. But it can equally be applied to our spiritual work.
Can we really expect God to bless us with all we ask when we don’t do our “work” on earth: act with integrity, speak the truth, be quick to help and slow to judge others?
The Gospel raises some points that may help us navigate the “confusing” world of today:
1) Don’t be seduced by “good looking things”.
2) As we grow more successful, stay connected to God.
3) Be prepared that when we do good, we can cause other people to get angry with us.
1) Trusting in things because they look good on the outside. I was inspired by a short story this week about Bill Gates who was asked if there is anyone richer than he is. He said “yes,” and explained how many years ago when he was not rich, a poor newspaper seller gave him a newspaper, for free, when he didn’t have enough coins. That happened twice with the same man. He tried to refuse the second time, but the man said, “it’s OK I’ve made a profit today.” Some years later when he was rich, Bill Gates looked for that man and finally located him after 3 months. He asked the man, “do you remember me?” He replied, “yes, you’re Bill Gates.” Bill asked him, “do you remember giving me a newspaper some years back?” “Yes, I gave you twice.” Bill offered to buy him anything he wanted as an appreciation. But the man looked at Bill and said, “you can’t pay me back now because you’re rich. I helped you when I was poor, and you aint poor anymore.”
Although there are many good people who are wealthy, it’s often poorer people who give the most donations to charity, and give the most time to help at community events. We should not put our trust in politicians because they look smart, are wealthy and promise to save us.
We should select politicians who actually do good things.
2) Stay connected to God as we grow successful: as we get older and more successful (comfortable?), it’s easy to become too busy to pray and go to church: we can become so caught up in material pleasures that we forget the more important source of happiness: sharing our lives with others, and making sacrifices for others. Staying connected to God through acts of kindness and church, keeps us grounded and connected to people in a fulfilling way.
3) Be prepared to receive criticism and anger when we do good for others who need help. It’s a reaction from people who don’t want to help others, who don’t want to make sacrifices for others. So, to avoid themselves being judged, it’s “good” to get rid of the “do-gooders.” Jesus says: ‘…You will be hated by all men on account of my name...’
So, if we want to be at peace with ourselves, and take away fear of the future, the only investment that makes it possible, is by living a life of generosity, forgiveness and appreciating what we have. Mother Teresa was a great example of this.
Don’t worry: God’s Church is not going to fail, because it is made of up good people like yourselves. The priest and Bishops simply serve something much greater than themselves.
Fr Richard Rohr OFM says that the happy people, in the second half of life, are those who have found some way to serve others. I pray we have the generosity of spirit and trust in God’s ways, to become people who serve, and so take away all fear of what the future holds for us.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI