Stop Being Indifferent!

Stop Being Indifferent!


Here is a link to today’s readings.

shutterstock_411416158Jesus came to comfort the disturbed and to disturb the comfortable. Have you heard this common saying before? It captures succinctly the message of the readings this weekend. If we are living in comfort without any concern for the poor and oppressed, then we have had our reward here on earth and will not find one in Heaven. On the other hand, those who are poor here will find themselves rich in Heaven. The self-revelation of God in Scripture makes clear that God has a special concern for those who are poor, marginalized, vulnerable, and oppressed, and that our judgement will be based on whether we act on their behalf or live in comfort while they suffer. We are given a clear definition of what “keeping the faith” really means: “Blessed he who keeps faith forever, secures justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry.”

Dorothy Day noted wryly that “It is not love in the abstract that counts.” When faced with real people and real situations, our idealized versions of ourselves quickly crumble. We realize we are not as loving as we thought we were. This is especially true when loving demands sacrifice. It is easy to see ourselves as wonderfully caring people as long as our altruism is rewarded with good feelings, words of acknowledgement, and gestures of appreciation. As soon as it cuts into our comfort, though, we realize how hard love really is. This is why Jesus praised the woman who gave just two pennies at the Temple even though others gave far more (Mark 12:41-44). He knew she had sacrificed: she gave all that she had!

shutterstock_433151821This reminds me of a story Mother Teresa told about a family with eight children who had no food to eat. When she was made aware of their plight, Mother went to them with some rice and presented it to the mother of the family. The woman quickly divided the rice in two and then disappeared for a short while. When she came back, Mother Teresa asked her where she had gone, and she told her she had brought half the rice “To my neighbors; they are hungry also!” Reflecting on this situation, Mother Teresa wrote, “I was not surprised that she gave—poor people are really very generous. I was surprised that she knew they were hungry. As a rule, when we are suffering, we are so focused on ourselves, we have no time for others.” The poor have so much to teach us. Our service to them is not our salvation in some Pelagian sense, as if our generosity earns our salvation, but rather, we come closer to Christ in the poor, whom Mother Teresa called “His most distressing disguise.” The poor are very close to God. Fr. James Martin, S.J. says this closeness is simply because “the poor have less between them and God.” As a result, they have a lot to offer us!

Two summers ago, I brought a group of teenagers to the Romero Center in Camden, NJ to spend a week in service to the poor while also studying poverty. Camden is one of the poorest cities in the United States with poverty that certainly shouldn’t exist, especially in such a wealthy country. Painted on the wall above the main gathering area in the Romero Center (named after the Salvadorian Archbishop who was assassinated while saying Mass because of his outspoken defense of the poor) are the challenging words, “So you say you love the poor… name them.”

This is what impressed St. Teresa of Calcutta—the awareness of pain and suffering even among those whose own abject poverty would seemingly exempt them from noticing another’s situation. We live in what Pope Francis calls starkly a “culture of indifference” in which apathy is globalized along with the markets. We are indifferent to the pain all around us. Amos the prophet criticizes us sharply: “They drink wine from bowls and anoint themselves with the best oils; yet they are not made ill by the collapse of Joseph!” Are we drinking wine while somebody else has no shutterstock_113310862water? We say we care about the poor, but can we name any? Would we even know to whom we should bring half our supply of rice? This is the great challenge. We are good people with good hearts, but the busy-ness of life distracts us from what is really essential. The zoning of our neighborhoods keeps us from having contact with the poor in many cases. The sheer sense of the magnitude of the problem on the global level makes us feel powerless. We have only two pennies, after all. To Christ, it is enough.


  • Marion Collins
    Posted at 20:35h, 24 September

    Fantastic, Kevin. You highlighted the very basic core of poverty and injustice and offered simple solutions through your own experiences and the resources of some of the people we most admire.
    Dorothy Day reminding us that real people need real solutions.
    I love your comment that Jesus came to comfort the disturbed and to disturb the comfortable. It has been repeated through time but never more needed than in what Pope Frqncis calls today’s “Culture of Indifference”?
    Without concern for the poor,and oppressed, whether through race, gender or abject poverty we will not gain Heaven but those whom we have ignored and who have endured our miscarriage of justice will be with the Father.
    Try going to help with a meal for the street people, or a trip to Covenant House, a Juvenile Offenders lock-up or Family Shelter and we will never be the same. We will act with a sense of recognition and a purposeful commitment to our brothers and sisters. Archbishop Romero, a hero of my youth, said, ” So you say you love the poor-name them”!
    Love demands Sacrifice because it is the giving of ourselves. So let us stop, look, listen and reach out. Whatever we can do will be enough if genuinely given from our hearts and in His Name.

    Thank you, Kevin and Bayard for handing me a meditation I can pass on with conviction and confidence to my Hospital Meditation
    group. I hope you all appreciate how many different people you are reaching with God’s Love!