Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time - Fr. Joe Austin
November 19th, 2023 - 11:00 AM
Today is the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time.
The 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time was designated back in 2016 by Pope Francis as “World Day of the Poor.”
Pope Francis tells us that there can be no justice or social peace as long as Lazarus lies at the door of our homes.
A question for us today is, “Who in our world represents Lazarus?”
Who among us is affected by poverty?
When we can answer this question, we can better see whether we have the means to alleviate the poverty that we encounter. But first, we ask, “Who among us is affected by poverty?”
We can ask this question in order to identify those who are poor, and we also ask this question to better understand what we mean by words such as, “poor” and “poverty.” What does it mean to be poor? What is poverty?
Though I may not look like it, I’m a really poor basketball player; well, maybe you could tell.
What does it mean to be poor, to be affected by poverty?
Is being poor relatable to an economic situation? I imagine we would all answer yes — being poor can relate to an economic situation.
But, is it possible to be poor in other areas of life? Our desire to fix economic disparities around us can make us lose sight of the fact that poverty is much broader than one’s economic situation.
It can be tempting to think that receiving enough money will be enough to lift someone out of a life of poverty. We can tend to see a negative correlation, a sort of opposite relationship, between one’s poverty and the number of dollars found in one’s bank account — it’s easy to think that, the higher the bank account number, the less one is affected by poverty.
And yet, poverty can affect someone even when they have a lot of money in the bank. Take professional football players, for example. These players tend to make a million plus a year, playing on average about 5 years. Athletes that get drafted in early rounds do even better, making around 20-30 million dollars over the course of their four year rookie contract. Yet, around 78% of retired professional football players face serious financial hardships at some point during retirement, while over 15% of them end up filing for bankruptcy. Even when they had a lot of money in the bank, poverty was clearly still affecting them, leading them down a path where their economic situation was eventually going to also become affected by poverty.
Clearly, the millions of dollars they made wasn’t enough to lift them out of poverty, not permanently at least. We can wonder why, and we can make a good guess by pointing to poverty in the area of financial knowledge. Typically, a lack of financial education will lead right back to an economic situation that is affected by poverty.
So poverty is wider than an economic situation — one can be poor economically, but one can also be poor in terms of physical or mental health, or in terms of social or caste placement, or poor in education, or one can simply be poor in opportunity.
The point is, poverty is wide-ranging. When we widen our understanding of poverty and recognize that it affects many more people than we previously thought, we not only are able to better identify those who are poor and recognize the particular kind of poverty that affects them — we are also better able to give of ourselves and what we have in order to lift others out of poverty in a more permanent sense, in a way that is more effective than simply giving some loose change to a beggar, though such an act is itself kind and praiseworthy.
All of us have talents that God has given us. He calls us to grow those talents, by putting them to use and by sharing them with others, so that these talents will multiply not only in our lives, but in the lives of those around us.