Today’s Gospel should make us feel uncomfortable – the rich man who steps over the beggar at his gate. Like all of us he is uncomfortable when confronted with destitution, with extreme poverty…. I think Jesus wants us to feel uncomfortable when we hear his words today.
Clayton M Christensen , in 1995, coined the phrase disruptive technology. These are innovations often produced by an outsider which changes the market, or the way we do things. So for instance in Academia, whose currency is the transmission of knowledge – Wikipedia is a disruptive technology, open source, peer edited, free access to knowledge, which led to end of to many traditional encyclopaedias being produced. You can think of many examples digital photography and the demise of Kodak, Uber challenging the taxi industry, amazon and bookshops etc etc
The Gospels of Jesus Christ are meant to be disruptive – Jesus in the tradition of Prophets from the Old Testament is warning us. The Prophet Amos in th first reading says ‘Woe to the Complacent in Zion’ …. Our complacency our comfort in this world where there is such extreme wealth and extreme poverty is an offence to God. Amos the prophet does not mince his words.
But Jesus is more sophisticated even as a prophet – he doesn’t want to harangue us, he doesn’t just want us to feel guilty and powerless that we can do nothing, he wants us to change our hearts – he wants a deeper transformation. He wants us to ponder this parable, to reflect on it … to pray with it – so that our hearts change.
Today’s Gospel of the poor man at the rich man’s gate is meant to disrupt our complacency – We are meant to feel uncomfortable if we really listen to this. We see poverty on the streets of Manchester all the time, there is even a small tented shanty town growing up near Piccadilly, and we also see bright new shiny buildings going up everywhere. This paradox is perplexing …. If the economy in Manchester is booming – how come so many people are obviously being left out? What has happened to the common good?
And if we are honest we developing coping mechanisms to cope with this – but the danger is that all these coping mechanisms take us in on ourselves …. Saint Augustine said that sin is a life lived “inward” for self rather than “outward” for God and others. The theological phrase in Latin (if you are interested) is “Incurvatus in se” (Turned/curved inward on oneself). How many things allow us to live like that now – we can control our environment – glued to our smart phones – living digital lives – we put our headphones in and we can even block the world out. But let us acknowledge these are coping mechanisms.
But God has told us repeatedly through the prophets, through Moses, through Abraham, to have a deep attentiveness to the Poor….. but that makes us uncomfortable. Jesus wants us time and time again about the isolating power of wealth … the more we have we are that isolated from each other, and ultimately isolated from God – we create rich ghettoes, gated communities, bigger walls…. And we become miserable
How can we help? There are so many ways so many initiatives flowering up around us …. The Holy Name and the Chaplaincy are becoming a centre for many of these initiatives….. just take the newsletter home and read it. But even before that maybe we can pray for the grace of freedom – to leave the technological arms race where we have to constantly upgrade our phones, the grace of freedom to realise how we are trapped by consumerism, and how we become blind to our neighbours in need… That could be our simple prayer for the week … Lord make me free… when we get up in the morning and when we go to bed at night.
Homily given at the Holy Name Sunday 25th September 12.00 mass