Sunday Homily – 25th Sunday C
1 Timothy 2:1-18
You and I are creatures of flesh, bone, blood, and soul. To stay alive and thrive, we need our Mother Earth. We need her for air, water, food, and heat. We need her for covering and shelter. We need her to stimulate our minds and spirits. So, in principle, it cannot be wrong to use the earth for our needs.
On the other hand, our use of the earth raises moral questions, especially today when the human population of the planet is more than seven billion people and steadily increasing. So, we have to ask ourselves: How much do we really need? How much do we have a right to? When might we be abusing or exploiting God’s gifts? When might we be simply hoarding?
To be more specific, we need to ask ourselves: How much and what quality of food do we have the right to eat when so many others across the globe are hungry or starving? How many changes of clothes are we entitled to when others have hardly a change of clothes? How elaborate a home are we entitled to when others are homeless or living in hovels? How much beauty can we claim for ourselves when others are living in filth and squalor?
These questions, I admit, are complex and difficult to answer exactly. Surely the merchants in the reading from Amos today had a right to buy and sell. So, they should not be faulted simply because they were prosperous while others were poor. Nor should the manager in the gospel be blamed for not being needy. Neither can we be criticized for putting resources aside for future use. For the education of children e.g., for future medical needs, for retirement, and even for a holiday. But the question remains: – How much do we really need? And are there any limits to our rights of ownership?
Our consumer society tells us that we have a right to everything we earn or might earn. But do we? In a world of limited and dwindling resources, how much is too much? What does the balance of the earth say to us? What do the legitimate needs of others tell us? What does our faith as followers of Jesus suggest? In these matters of life and death, what does it mean to act as ‘children of the light’?
In this whole area, there are no easy answers and no pat answers. While we do have the right to use and enjoy the resources of our world, we cannot do this without a sense of responsibility to others who share our planet and to the planet itself. The persons in today’s readings are not condemned because they were better off than others, but because they used their wealth only for their personal advantage, benefit, and enrichment. With them, it was self first, last. and always.
You and I are much more than greedy and insatiable consumers. Our value and dignity do not consist in our possessions but in the quality of our relationships, and especially the quality of our relationships with our deprived and needy fellow human beings all over the earth. We may never know if our decisions in this area are the best ones we could make. But being fair, just, and loving people do require us to think about, grapple with, and respond to the challenging issues of sharing Mother Earth and her resources with the whole human race. Collectively and individually, we must not squander the resources of our world. We must make decisions as trustworthy and responsible administrators of the gifts of God, and not be like that man in the gospel who was concerned only with himself and his well-being.
In short, Jesus calls us to serve God, not greed! Let me say that one more time: – Jesus calls us to serve God, not greed!
Brian Gleeson is a Passionist priest, and a member of the Passionist community in Endeavour Hills, Melbourne.