Saturday, October 8, 2016

Twenty Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle C

Welcome to read homilies for the Sundays of the year. These are sample homilies which you can read with devotion. You may use them in your own homilies without asking my permission. You may also change or edit these to fit them to your audience. A unique quality of these homilies is that they are Christ-filled. From beginning to end they present to us some aspect of Jesus so that beholding his glory we “are being transformed from glory to glory into his very image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NAB).

Second Necessary Step to Eradicate Poverty

In the Washington headquarters of the World Bank is carved in stone this statement of its mission "Our Dream is a World Free of Poverty". Its goal is the ending of extreme poverty within a generation, that is, by 2030 among the more than 145 client countries. The World Bank admits that despite some progress in fulfilling this mission the number of people globally living in extreme poverty remains unacceptably high. 

The same World Bank estimates that in the present year 2016 there are 896 million people living in extreme poverty, that is, people who live on 1 and 90 cents or 90 Philippine pesos a day or less. The estimates that nearly one half of the world's population, more than 3 billion people, live on less than 2 dollars and 50 cents or 118 Philippine pesos a day. These are the relatively poor. Its estimate of the extremely poor is higher than that of the World Bank, 1.3 billion, not 896 million. We can safely estimate that more or less 1 billion people live in extreme poverty. These people are always hungry, are without adequate clothing and shelter and are deprived of basic services like clean drinking water and basic education. They suffer daily and die in pain.

The World Bank has a three part strategy to end extreme poverty; 1) by the countries growing in an inclusive, labor-intensive way; 2) by their investing in human capital of people, teaching them basic skills for living; and 3) by their insuring poor and vulnerable people against the shocks that can push them deeper into poverty like natural calamities. This strategy does not incorporate the second step necessary to eradicate poverty which we heard from the Gospel reading today.

The has also a strategy to end poverty. It has 46 simple ways that anyone can do to help eliminate poverty but this does not include the second step necessary to eradicate poverty which we heard from the Gospel reading today.

Our Gospel reading does not have the words "the second step necessary to eradicate poverty". But a person by the name of Wallace D. Wattles in the early part of the twentieth century discovered from his studies and experience that the attitude expected by Jesus from the ten lepers in our Gospel reading is the second step necessary to eradicate poverty in one's personal life and in the life of a community or even of a country.

You may wonder and ask me what is the first step necessary to eradicate poverty? It is implied in our Gospel reading, but the second step is given more importance. And it is this second step in which most of us fail. The first step was made explicit by Jesus in Matthew's Gospel. Jesus said, "Ask, and you will receive. Seek, and you will find. Knock and it will be opened to you. For the one who asks receives. The one who seeks finds. The one who knocks, enters" (Matthew 7:7-8). This first step was implicit in the loud calling of the ten lepers in the Gospel narrative. They shouted, Jesus, Master! Have pity on us! They asked Jesus to have pity on them. The first step is to ask God to deliver us out of poverty, personal, communal, national or global.

Wallace Wattles expressed the first step this way. These are his actual words in his book THE SCIENCE OF GETTING RICH. “. . . the first step toward getting rich is to convey the idea of your wants to the formless substance” (Chapter 7). This formless substance is his way of naming God. It is the equivalent of the Pure Act of our scholastic philosophers and theologians, like St. Thomas Aquinas.

Wattles expressed the second step this way: “. . . you relate yourself to it (the formless substance or Pure Act or God) by a feeling of deep and profound gratitude. Many people who order their lives rightly in all other ways are kept in poverty by their lack of gratitude. Having received one gift from God, they cut the wires which connect them with him by failing to make acknowledgment.”

One thing is sure from our reading. Jesus expects those whom he helped to be grateful. He asked for the other 9 who did not return to him to thank him.  He said, Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?

We do not have written in our Gospel texts Jesus' command to us to give thanks, but this story in our Gospel reading tells us that Jesus does want us to give thanks to people who help us and to God. And Jesus himself gave thanks many times. And to impress upon our minds that we need to give thanks he has through his Holy Spirit and his Church arranged that the Mass be called Eucharist, the Greek word for "thanks" because when he instituted the Mass he gave thanks. Everyday the Eucharist is celebrated. Everyday thanksgiving is celebrated. And St. Paul the Apostle is explicit in his first letter to the Thessalonians. He wrote, "In every thing give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you" (5:18 AV).

We know from the letter to the Hebrews that Jesus does pray always before God his Father interceding for us (7:25). And like when he was physically on earth he gave thanks to God, he still gives thanks to God for us. We unite our voices with his especially in the Christian Prayer which some of us use.

Jesus does not want these 1 billion people to continue living in extreme poverty. He created each one of them with care and precision. He wants to give them the abundant life. But he has given us the task of enabling them to get out of their poverty by first teaching them to pray for their needs and secondly to infect them with the habit of always being grateful for everything in their lives. For his words are still true, if we seek first his kingship over us, his way of holiness, all these things that we need to get out of poverty will be given to us besides (Matthew 6:33-34). In another work JESUS: THE MAN AND HIS WORK Wattles echoes this statement of Jesus, “Seek the Father’s kingdom, says Jesus, and you solve the bread and butter problem.”

Our Gospel reading would like to add, And be grateful, as Jesus would have us be grateful.

We pray as we bow our heads. Lord Jesus, it is your will that we always give thanks to you. For all that we are and have you have given to us. Teach us and enable us to be always grateful, imitating the foreigner in our Gospel story who came back to you to give thanks. Amen.

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Note for the readers:

The Mass readings are from the New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE). This is where our Lectionary gets the readings.

NAB stands for New American Bible (before it was revised). This is the translation I use. Unless otherwise stated the text I use is from this translation.

AV stands for Authorized Version of the Bible. It is more commonly referred to as the King James Bible. It is the version most used in English literature, therefore it is the one known more by the English speaking world.

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