Many passages/books in scriptures address indifference, double standards, and hypocrisy. Trying to privatize God, being harshly judgmental of others that may be different than us can be the highest form of sacrilege — not seeing all people as worthy and not sharing what God has given us to help others. For Christians, many of the teachings and warnings by Jesus include self-centered blindness and greed. Failing to reach out to help one in need he declares: “If your hand causes you to sin cut it off!” (Matthew 9:43) The foot not lifted to stand up for the rights of others — the oppressed — cut it off, and the eye not seeing others as the Lord calls us to gouge it out.
We know that if we truly want to live our faith in Jesus it is more than lip service and is often contrary to the empty, at times hedonistic, message of the world. We are in the world to make it better, and not of the world to soak it up and hoard material gains — exhaust resources and destroy the planet.
St. James certainly warns the same in his letter: “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.” (James 5:1-6)
Does God have something against being rich or wealthy? Of course not. Christian religion and faith teaches us that if we use our blessings to help persons less fortunate, we share in the mission of loving neighbor as ourselves. God wants us to have the means to assist the less fortunate, but not on making us rich to satisfy just personal wants — and greed. Focusing our life on material gains, making them needs, could cause us to come up empty in life and hollow in soul. Rather, it is good to examine our motives to be materially successful. Shouldn’t we ask ourselves, what sort of decisions will I make about the needs of others — even in my own family, with the success I have gained?
I know about that all too well from my own earlier life with tremendous personal success. It was all about me. Abortion, death penalty, euthanasia, assisted suicide — those were all issues out there somewhere for someone else to resolve — they didn’t enter my mind. My idea of charity (although important) was giving a check to a cause of an employee, but rarely personal contact, or public witness of support.
Then God got me back at the height of my success I felt empty — questioned the meaning of my life and where it was heading. Through conversion (from the stem of conversation) I began to be alive again — going outward for the good of others. The cause of others became real for me as I began to volunteer to help. Life became no longer just me. Encountering the human being in need and not just a cause, my life took on purpose and meaning — isn’t that what we all search for?
How we live with our gifts — material and otherwise — reflects how we address all aspects of our moral life. Not seeing all life as sacred is not only reflected in the destruction of human life, such as the recent slaughter in Las Vegas and the continued desecration of life by “terrorists.”
Some ignore the life of our sacred planet. Some ignore life being formed in the womb. However, seeing all life as sacred and worthy of our help is one of the greatest teachings of Christ and perhaps most challenging. There are many opportunities to witness our faith to uphold the sanctity of life. The actions and words of Jesus cannot be left to church leaders and catechists, etc. — it is all our responsibility to open our hearts to the Lord and witness our faith.
There is a wonderful painting that is a popular image, perhaps many of you have seen. Jesus is standing outside at night with a lantern knocking on a door overgrown with ivy and weeds — obviously not opened in a long time. There is no handle on the outside where he is standing with his lantern of light and hope and knocks. There is no way for him to enter unless someone on the other side opens the door to let him in. The painting is called; “The Light of the World” by William Holden Hunt (1827-1910).
The original was sent on tour and became so popular that Hunt was asked to paint a larger version for St. Paul’s Cathedral, in London. After many years, and a great deal of city dirt the painting was taken out of its frame to be cleaned and the restorers discovered what the artist hid by the frame — more than likely did not intend anyone to see. He had written the words, “Forgive me, Lord Jesus that I kept you waiting so long!”