It seems to me that it has become appropriate among some politicians and person to blame the poor for being poor. There is an underlying belief among some, it seems to me, that the reason the poor are poor is simply because they are lazy and enjoy being poor, mooching off of the kindness of others.
It seems that today we are as likely as Cain was to ask God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” We do not seem to have an attitude that holds us responsible for the way we treat others. Those who cheat and set up the system only or primarily for their own gain are lauded as industrious, as those persons who have such drive and determiniation that their wealth comes only because of their own effort. For Christians, this can be an attitude even though we have the example of the life of Lazurus, the poor beggar and Matthew’s gospel where at the final judgement we will learn that the way we treated others is the way we treated Jesus.
There are even those Christians who look at natural disasters and make the claim that they claim is the result of people’s sins. Obviously they have not read very carefully the words of today’s gospel. “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans?” Jesus answer is emphatic: “By no means!”
“Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them–do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem?” Again, Jesus makes his point: “By no means!” Were the people in New Orleans more guilty than the rest of us because they felt the ravages of Hurricane Katrina? Are the people in West Africa more guilty because they are suffering from Ebola?
Jesus is clear. “By no means!” But there is a warning to us. Each of us will find ourselves coming to a bad end if we do not acknowledge our own need for repentence. The message of Jesus in the gospel seems so often to be centered upon love. But we learn from Jesus also that love does not mean being allowed to do whatever we want.
Parents learn this in raising children. Teachers learn this in teaching students. And in a way, we learn this in those authentic relationships even with our friends. Love calls each of us to something greater. Love calls us to God, for God is love. And that means understanding our personal need to turn away from our sins and being faithful to the gospel.