Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C
[Malachi 4:1-2; Psalm 98; 2Thessalonians 3:7-12; Luke 21:5-19]
Dominating news headlines for a while now has been the rise in interest rates initiated by the world’s central banks. This has the majority of people very worried, especially if they are carrying heavy debt loads. It is worrisome everywhere, because rises in interest rates cause economic activity to slow down, mortgage payments to go up, unemployment levels to grow, and house prices to fall. The hope of everyone is that the interest rate will not grow too much too quickly, and that it will before long come down again to manageable levels.
When we gather today for mass, we are mindful of a different sort of interest rate. This is one that we ardently hope will rise very high indeed, and remain for a long time at sky-high levels, but which, sadly, remains in our world very low and as a result causes more widespread hardship than the actions of the world’s central banks. Today is the World Day of the Poor, a day initiated by Pope Francis to raise interest in the plight of the poor and needy people of the world. In this context, a low interest rate is what we otherwise call indifference to the needs of others. The Holy Father wants our “central banks” – our hearts – never to take satisfaction in this low rate, but instead always work to raise it so that interest in the situation of anyone in need remains at a high level.
This describes well the mission of this parish of Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples. The last time I was here I had a special guest in tow, who was very much aware of the good deeds carried out by you, the parishioners. In his discourse to us, Pope Francis drew specific attention to this and expressed his personal thanks to all of you for the care you do not fail to show to the poor and needy. Here the Holy Father could see, as can we all, the high rate of interest in finding ways to bring real consolation and concrete assistance to people needing help.
With these thoughts in mind, let’s turn to the Gospel passage from Saint Luke. How do the words of Jesus deepen our understanding of the need to keep high our interest in caring for the poor? I draw our attention here to these words of Jesus: “This will give you an opportunity to testify.” He has been speaking to his disciples of difficult things to come: the destruction of the beloved Temple, false teachers, wars and insurrections, persecutions, and betrayals. Jesus tells them not to be afraid, but instead to see “an opportunity to testify”. What he means, of course, is the chance to point to the love of God, and of what God has done and continues to do in his Son, Jesus Christ.
We can discern in these words a call from the Lord to see our present circumstances as “an opportunity to testify” to his love. The current moment in which our world lives appears no less fearsome than the various signs and events of which Jesus speaks. We have the war in Ukraine, global movements of refugees fleeing calamity in search of a better life, economic hardship, pandemics, and division in both society and family. This is our opportunity to testify, to point to the presence and action of the love of Jesus Christ as the reason for real hope.
This brings us back to the World Day of the Poor. Our care for others is our testimony to the love of God revealed in Christ. Pope Benedict XVI once said that there are times when it is helpful to use words to speak of God’s love, while at others it is best to let love alone speak. This is what we are doing in our care for the poor – we are letting love alone speak. The love we show in our outreach to the poor and needy points to the love of Jesus that inspires and animates all that we do.
Economists tell us a rise in interest rates helps to battle inflation in the market place. In order to get prices down we must first raise rates of interest. When it comes to caring for the poor, though, an opposite dynamic is at play. In order to raise interest in the plight of the needy, we must first lower inflation, not however in the market but the human heart. We live in an age when prideful self-centeredness can be so inflated that little if any thought is given to the needs of others. That rate of inflation is very high indeed. It is brought down when we heed the prophetic warning of Malachi against arrogance, and abandon any false claims to entitlement, which, as Saint Paul observes, can infect even members of the Church.
In our Lord Jesus, there was no inflation of ego; he was entirely self-gift, offered to the Father for the sake of sinful and suffering humanity. He makes this very same self-gift, once offered on the Cross, present here on our altar at mass. By the grace of this sacrament, may the inflation of our hearts be brought low and our interest in the needs of others raised high, so that we can thereby testify to the ever-abiding and all-powerful love of our God.
Most Reverend Richard W. Smith
Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples
November 13th, 2022