30th Sunday in Ordinary Time [a]

Engaging Faith | Thu, Oct 20, 2011

By John Bucki, S.J.
Source: Center of Concern

This week's Lectionary Notes

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time [a]
 October 23, 2011

Exodus 22:20-26
1 Thessalonians 1:5c-10
Matthew 22:34-40

October 23: World Mission Sunday
October 24: United Nations Day
October 31: Halloween


Individual initiative alone and the mere free play of competition could never assure successful development. One must avoid the risk of increasing still more the wealth of the rich and the dominion of the strong, whilst leaving the poor in their misery and adding to the servitude of the oppressed.”
                   --Pope Paul IV, 1967, On the Development of Peoples, #33

Love for others, and in the first place love for the poor, in whom the Church sees Christ himself, is made concrete in the promotion of justice.
                              ~ John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, 1991

Love of neighbor is an absolute demand for justice, because charity must manifest itself in actions and structures which respect human dignity, protect human rights, and facilitate human development. To promote justice is to transform structures which block love.
1971 Synod of Bishops, Justice in the World

In teaching us charity, the Gospel instructs us in the preferential respect due to the poor and the special situation they have in society: the more fortunate should renounce some of their rights so as to place their goods more generously at the service of others.
Pope Paul VI, Call to Action, 23

Distributive justice requires that the allocation of income, wealth, and power in society be evaluated in light of its effects on persons whose basic material needs are unmet.
--U.S. Bishops, Economic Justice for All

Thoughts for your consideration

In the gospel today, Jesus affirms that both love of God and love of neighbor are essential to our life.

The first reading presents challenging examples which make this love very concrete.
Exodus gives very clear instructions. 
·    Aliens, widows and orphans are not to be oppressed. 
·    Interest is not to be demanded from the poor, to whom money is lent.

Love is not just an emotion. 
It moves us to care for those who are most in need. 
It calls us to consider the needs of people and not just our personal economic security. 
It calls us to be in solidarity with those in need and to see things for the perspective of the other.
It calls us to learn from one another and to be transformed.

Love leads to action.
We are called to put love into action.
We are reminded of Catholic Social Teaching’s demand for a preferential love for the poor.  

In any case, we must ask ourselves: who are the aliens, widows and orphans today?  Are they being oppressed in any way?  How can we as individuals and as a society show them a love that is made concrete? What are the structures in our society and our government that will promote such justice? How can we learn and grow and together “serve the living God?”


Some people may be surprised to read in Exodus about the prohibition on charging interest on loans to the poor.  Yet, there it is.  It is especially striking when we reflect on the ongoing problems in our financial system, the number of people who have experienced foreclosures on their homes, the high rate of interest charged on credit card debt, and the extreme income inequality that has developed in our country over the last few decades.  We certainly have a lot to think about.  Number 341 of the Compendium of the Social Teaching of the Church addresses the question of usury:
Although the quest for equitable profit is acceptable in economic and financial activity, recourse to usury is to be morally condemned: “Those whose usurious and avaricious dealings lead to the hunger and death of their brethren in the human family indirectly commit homicide, which is imputable to them”.[714] This condemnation extends also to international economic relations, especially with regard to the situation in less advanced countries, which must never be made to suffer “abusive if not usurious financial systems”.[715] More recently, the Magisterium used strong and clear words against this practice, which is still tragically widespread, describing usury as “a scourge that is also a reality in our time and that has a stranglehold on many peoples' lives”.[716]

[714] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2269.
[715] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2438.
[716] John Paul II, Catechesis at General Audience (4 February 2004), 3: L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 11 February 2004, p. 11.

Questions for Reflection in your Faith Sharing Group
What examples come to mind when you think of that love of neighbor that moves beyond charity to the promotion of justice? 

The first reading talks about welcoming the “alien.”  What does this have to say to us as we consider our nation’s policies about immigration?

The first reading talks about care for the “widow and the orphan.”  Who are the widows and the orphans of today?

How does the call to love God and love our neighbor relate to the issues that are being raised by the “occupy wall street” movement?  How do the values articulated in the Exodus reading about caring for the alien and widow and not charging interest relate to the issues being raised by the “occupy wall street” people?

Actions – Links

Occupy Wall Street and Catholic Social Teaching
Fr. Patrick Howell SJ, the rector (religious superior) of the Jesuit Community at Seattle University and professor of pastoral theology, attempts to connect the Occupy Wall Street Movement, Steve Jobs, and Catholic Social Teaching in his recent op-ed piece in the Seattle Times.
“In its simplest terms, the message of the protesters is that the top 1 percent — corporate executives, the rich elite — are gobbling up the resources, leaving the crumbs for the remaining 99 percent. It's a prophetic critique of individualistic greed and a call to attend to the common good, especially to the weakest and most vulnerable among us.”

Food Aid for Children
“… the global food aid system—led by the United States—largely continues to provide substandard foods to millions of malnourished children every year, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) announced…”

“Crazy Facts”

The following was written by Op-Ed Columnist Nicholas Kristof in the October 15, 2011 New York Times.
Here the critical issue is economic inequity. According to the C.I.A.’s own ranking of countries by income inequality, the United States is more unequal a society than either Tunisia or Egypt.
Three factoids underscore that inequality:
·    The 400 wealthiest Americans have a greater combined net worth than the bottom 150 million Americans.
·    The top 1 percent of Americans possess more wealth than the entire bottom 90 percent.
·    In the Bush expansion from 2002 to 2007, 65 percent of economic gains went to the richest 1 percent.

Annual percentage rates (APRs) on new credit card offers reached 15 percent for the first time in the four-year history of's Weekly Rate Report. It's the seventh straight week in which the national average APR for a new credit card offer has either topped or equaled a record high, dating back to late August.

Prayers of Intercession
Response: God of Love, help us love one another.
For immigrants to our country, we pray….
For refugees who have come from places of great danger, we pray….
For the homeless of our own nation, we pray….
For those who are burdened by debts, we pray…..
For those who are in danger of losing their homes, we pray…..
For those who cannot afford to buy necessary food for themselves and their family…. We pray…..
For those who have lost their employment, we pray….
For those who are worried about the loss of employment, we pray….
For the rich and powerful, we pray….

Prayer – Meditation

The following prayer is one of many that can be found at the site of the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development at:

A feast for all
Loving God,
We gaze in wonder
At the splendor of your creation
We see a banquet spread before us
Rich carpeted fields of yellowing grain
And overflowing baskets of ripe fruit
We see a banquet prepared for all peoples
Of fine wines and rich food
A generous feast for all to share
Help us to learn from your generosity
How to share our bread with the hungry
And open our hearts to the poor
To commit ourselves to preparing
A banquet for all peoples
A generous feast for all to share.

Prayer for Charity and a Preferential Option for the Poor by Mary Lou Kownacki, OSB

Poor ones, please take the bread. It is yours.
The house with running water belongs to you.
A plot of land, a dignified job – all yours.
Forgive me for offering it.
Charity is not substitute for justice but your children are hungry now.

Spirit of Justice, break open our hearts.
Break them wide open
Let anger pour through
    like strong winds
    cleansing us of complacency,
Let courage pour through
    like spring storms
    flooding out fear.
Let zeal pour through
    like blazing summer sun,
    filling us with passion.
Force of Justice, grant me
    anger at what is,
    courage to do what must be done,
    passion to break down the walls
    of injustice
        and build a land flowing
        with milk and honey
        for God’s beloved,
        God’s special love,
        God’s Poor Ones.
Spirit of Justice
break open our hearts.

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