Our Greed for Innocence

(For the audio version of this blog, please visit: http://brothersinchristcmf.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/Mass-Blog-for-the-26th-Sunday-in-Ordinary-Time-2022.mp3)

Movie and TV courtroom dramas involving premeditated murder usually climax with a prosecutor summarizing the defendant’s guilt. It highlights the means, motive and opportunity the suspect had to kill the victim. This Sunday’s Mass readings put humanity on trial, and we can almost hear God tell us we have the means, motive and opportunity to kill ourselves, but He wants to stop us before we commit that crime.  

Our means is wealth that can enable complacency born of comfort. It’s like a drug that tends to deaden empathy for others. The prophet Amos is our first witness (Am 6:1a, 4-7), and he offers damning testimony from a different time and place.

Woe to the complacent in Zion! Lying upon beds of ivory, stretched comfortably on their couches, they eat lambs taken from the flock, and calves from the stall!
… They drink wine from bowls and anoint themselves with the best oils; yet they are not made ill by the collapse of Joseph!

Our motive is to maintain that very comfort born of wealth. And as Paul, our next witness this Sunday, explains to Timothy, the love of money is the root of all self-consuming evils (1 Tm 6:11-16):

Some people in their desire for it have strayed from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains,” he testifies.

Finally, our star witness is Jesus. Through his parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Lk 16:19-31), he accuses us of missing the chance of a lifetime to save each other from the human condition. Instead, he contends, we’re more prone to trade our opportunity in for opportunism. Once the rich man in Jesus’s story is shown the penalty for a selfishness that cost Lazarus his life, the man begs God to let the spirit of Lazarus warn his brothers not to make the same mistakes he made. But heaven has no room for phonies, and as God tells the rich man, if Moses and the prophets couldn’t move his family’s hearts to do what they know is right, their newfound fear of hell wouldn’t be a legitimate passport to heaven.

But just as Jesus reached into Paul’s heart, saving him from that rich man’s self-damning fate, Paul’s change of heart became a message to Timothy and succeeding generations of humanity. It offers everyone the means, motive and opportunity to let the spirit of Jesus save us from ourselves:

“Pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness.”

Exercising these virtues regularly fuels in us a hunger for more ways to experience them. Such greed for innocence is the one vice that will not only save us from murdering ourselves, but will reward us with a heaven on earth.

–Tom Andel

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