Reflection on Gospel Today St James May 19

We read in first reading from letter to James “Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries. Your wealth has rotted away, your clothes have become moth-eaten, your gold and silver have corroded, and that corrosion will be a testimony against you: it will devour your flesh like a fire. Your have stored up treasures for the last day. behold, the wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud; and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure; you have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter. You have condemned; you have murdered the righteous one; he offers you no resistance.”

Pope Francis writes, ” We can no longer trust in the unseen forces and the invisible hand of the market. Growth in justice requires more than economic growth, while presupposing such growth: it requires decisions, programs, mechanisms, and process specifically geared to a better distribution of income, the creation of sources of employment, and an integral promotion of the poor which goes beyond a simple welfare mentality. I am far from proposing an irresponsible populism, but the economy can no longer turn to remedies that are a new poison, such as attempting to increase profits by reducing the work force and thereby adding to the ranks of the excluded.”

The catechism says, “St. John Chrysostom vigorously recalls this: ‘Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life. The goods we posses are not our, but their.’ ‘the demands of justice must be satisfied first of all; that which is already due in justice is not to be offered as a gift of charity.”  This thought is summed up by St Gregory the Great, “When we attend to the needs of those in want, we give them what is their, not ours. More than performing works of mercy, we are paying a debt of justice.”

Let me ask you a question. If a rich person puts 50 dollars into the collection plate is that charity or justice? It is not charity and an argument could be made that it is barely justice. Mother Theresa said that for something to be charity it has to cost us something. If we are giving out of our surplus it is justice and not charity. Pope Francis said in a recent homily, “I don’t trust a charity that cost us nothing.”

In Luke Gospel we read, “He entered Jericho and was passing through. And there was a man named Zacchaeus: he was a chief tax collector and rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but he could not, on account of the crowds, because he was small of stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was to pass that way. And when Jesus looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, make haste and come down; for I must stay at your house today.’ So he made haste and came down. and received him joyfully. And when they saw it they all murmured. He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner. And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, Lord, the half of all my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore it fourfold.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, since he is a Son of Abraham.” (Lk 19: 1-10)

The sign that Zacchaeus accepted Jesus was that he changed his life. He went beyond justice to charity. It was only after Zacchaeus said, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor, and if I have defrauded any one of anything I restore it fourfold.” Jesus said, “Today salvation has come to this house.” It is easy to say I accept Jesus and not change our life. Jesus says, “A tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down.” 

If we have done wrong we must make reparation. The Catechism says, “Every offense committed against justice and truth entails the duty of reparation, even if it author has been forgiven. When it is impossible publicly to make reparation for a wrong, it must be made secretly. If someone who has suffered harm cannot be directly compensated, he must be given moral satisfaction in the name of charity. This duty of reparation also concerns offenses against another’s reputation. This reparation, moral and sometimes material, must be evaluated in terms of the extent of the damage inflicted. It obliges in conscience.”


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