Tuesday, September 1, 2009

I Believe I Shall See The Good Things Of The Lord In The Land Of The Living.

When I start reading the epistle and gospel of the day in preparation for writing these reflections, I hope to find a link between the scriptures and current events. That doesn’t happen all the time, but it did today. I have been following the discussions in the media concerning the legislative proposals concerning the reform of health care in general and health insurance coverage in particular. Frankly, some of the “dialogue” has caused me some concern, especially in the context of today’s scripture texts.

In his First Letter to the Thessalonians, Paul reminds us that it is easy to be lulled into complacency, like a homeowner who sleeps peacefully, while a burglar is planning to break into the house. We need to be alert and attentive, because we are children of the day, not the darkness, people of the light, not of the night. We need to be alert, not complacent, so that, if a sudden disaster arises, we will not find it difficult to escape or overcome. If we live together as God’s children, if we remain vigilant, if we encourage one another and build up one another, then we have nothing to fear, because God is with us.

The Psalmist today presents a positive and hopeful message. I believe that I shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living. The Lord is my light, my salvation, and my refuge, of whom should I be afraid? Do you see “the good things of the Lord” in this land of the living? Let me ask that question another way: If I pour four ounces of water into an eight ounce glass, do you see the glass as half full, or half empty?

When Jesus spoke to the people of Capernaum on the Sabbath, they were astonished by the authority with which he spoke. But in the synagogue there was a man who was possessed by an unclean spirit. When they heard Jesus speak with authority, they were afraid that He had come to destroy them. Jesus rebuked the spirit, and ordered it to come out of the man.

Why do these scriptures resonate for me in the present political climate? I believe that, as citizens, we have an obligation to share what we have with those who have less; to help those who are striving to lift themselves and their families by their own bootstraps, by lending them a hand to help them up; to work toward a community where none consider their possessions to be exclusively their own, but all goods were shared communally, from each according to their means, and to each according to their need (Acts 4:32-35).

It concerns me that so many people in the United States, and still more in other countries throughout the world, lack basic health care choices. I am not concerned about why so many people lack these options, but only that they don’t have them. I don’t remember Jesus telling his disciples to feed the hungry unless they are ne’er-do-wells who ought to go out and earn their own living. I can’t give you chapter and verse of Jesus saying care for the sick unless the care they need would be deducted from my paycheck.

I doubt that the Apostle to the Gentiles would be very tolerant if the people gathered in the forum started trying to shout him down. In fact, that did happen occasionally, and he refused to preach the Good News to them. I suspect that the psalmist would be disappointed that we who have seen the good things of the Lord in the land of the living squander our bounty selfishly and refuse to share our wherewithal with the least of our brethren.

Is every one entitled to health care? If your daughter needed medicine and could not afford it, would you reduce your personal consumption in order to provide for what she needs? If your government asks you to pay a bit more in taxes so that a farm worker or a factory worker presently lacking any health care options could be given some basic care, would you answer, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9) Would Jesus be telling his disciples that they shouldn’t provide genuine health care choices to all who are in need, so that they could afford better health care for themselves?

And so, my hope and prayer today, and the hope and prayer of Tom Purcell, Professor of Accounting and Professor of Law at Creighton University in Omaha, whose meditation on today’s readings was a major source for this one, is that we be given the grace (and that we use the gift) to look with fresh and Christ- like vision on this land so that all of us can see and appreciate the good things of the Lord in the land of the living, and that we might be steadfast in our efforts to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned, shelter the homeless, and care for the sick.

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