Thursday, September 26, 2013

Breaking down indifference

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
September 29, 2013

Luke 16:19-31

According to Luke, when Jesus cries "you can't serve God and mammon [money]," some of the Pharisees who were listening to him and were friends of money "laughed at him." Jesus doesn't back down. A little while later, he tells a harrowing parable that those who are living as slaves of wealth might open their eyes.

Jesus briefly describes a bloody situation. A rich man and a poor beggar, who live close to each other, are separated by the gulf between the insultingly opulent lifestyle of the rich man and the extreme destitution of the poor one.

The tale describes the two characters, strongly emphasizing the contrast between them. The rich man is dressed in purple and fine linen; the body of the poor man is covered with sores. The rich man dines splendidly not only on feast days but every day; the poor man is lying at his door, unable to raise to his lips that which falls from the rich man's table. Only the dogs who come to look for something in the trash approach him to lick his wounds.

It never says that the rich man has exploited the poor man, or abused or despised him. It could be said that he has done nothing wrong. Nonetheless, his whole life is inhumane, since he only lives for his own welfare. His heart is stony. He totally neglects the poor man. He's in front of him but he doesn't see him. He's right there, sick, hungry and abandoned, but he isn't able to cross the threshold to take responsibility for him.

Let's not kid ourselves. Jesus isn't just denouncing the problem of Galilee in year 30. He's trying to stir the consciences of those of us who have become accustomed to living in abundance while having at our doorstep, just a few hours flight away, entire peoples living and dying in absolute destitution.

It's inhumane to lock ourselves in our "affluent society" while completely ignoring this other "society in distress." It's cruel to continue nurturing this "secret illusion of innocence" that allows us to live with peace of mind thinking that everyone and no one is to blame.

Our first task is to break down indifference. Resist going on enjoying affluence that is devoid of compassion. Not continue to isolate ourselves mentally to move the hunger and destitution that exist in the world to some abstract distant place, to thus be able to live without hearing any outcry, moaning, or sobs.

The Gospel can help us live vigilantly, without becoming increasingly insensitive to the suffering of the neglected, without losing our sense of fraternal responsibility, and without remaining passive when we can act.

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