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Unless we help the poor and needy we will never truly know God's love

Thought for the weekend

By Fr Patrick McCafferty

It is not God's will for some to have everything and others to have nothing". This statement of Blessed Oscar Romero, the martyred archbishop of San Salvador, sums up, succinctly, the message of God's Word to Christians this Sunday.

The prophet of social justice, Amos, roundly denounces those "ensconced so snugly in Zion", pampering themselves in luxury, not caring about the poor who languish in misery. "The sprawlers' revelry is over", declares Amos. There is going to be a reckoning (Amos 6:1,4-7).

In Jesus' Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, read in many churches this weekend, the Rich Man's soul is damned - not so much because of what he did - but on account of what he failed to do (Luke 16:19-31).

The Rich Man is in Hell, not because he believed in the wrong religious teachings, not even on account of any deliberate cruelties on his part towards the poor, but because of his neglect of the poor man, Lazarus, lying at his gate, destitute and covered in sores. The Rich Man neither saw nor heard the suffering of Lazarus. His eternal damnation is presented by the Lord Jesus, to the people of every age, as a cautionary tale.

Excessive wealth - and even the over-preoccupation with riches and the amassing of money - desensitizes, renders a human being blind and deaf, towards the plight of those sisters and brothers, who lack even the basic necessities for life: food, clothing, shelter, healthcare.

We can belong to the One True Church. We can count ourselves among the "saved" or "born again". Nevertheless, if we turn a blind eye to the poor, a deaf ear to their cries for help, we are in danger of going to the same eternal fate as the self-centred rich man in Our Lord's parable.

St Paul, writing to young Timothy, urges: "you must aim to be saintly and religious, filled with faith and love, patient and gentle. Fight the good fight of the faith and win for yourself eternal life…" (I Tim 6:11-12).

Crucial to this "good fight" is our doing battle on behalf of the poor and vulnerable in our midst. We are responsible for them. God will hold us all to account for what we failed to do to help them.

God hears the poor when they cry and the needy who are helpless (Job 34:28). Christians must be God's eyes and ears in a suffering world. Much more than that - we are God's limbs, coming to the aid, relief and support, of those cast aside in society.

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