“See no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil”. In tradition, these 3 wise monkeys mean to tell us to be of good mind, speech and action. Interestingly over time it became ‘turning a blind eye’ to the action of others doing things that were not quite right. Well, our thinking and values are further evolving, actually quicker in this rich technological age. But as people, have we become richer or poorer?

Lifestyles today gravitate a lot towards ‘self’. More and more we are exercising ‘personal rights’. ‘Self’ is winning the race to come first before community. When we look at the 3 monkeys, they too seem to have lost some wisdom. Maybe today’s monkeys are saying, “I don’t want to know, I don’t want to listen and I really don’t care”.

In the race to become rich according to the world, we sometimes embrace a culture of selfishness and allow the hands of the world to cover our eyes, ears and mouth to the promptings of a God who seem to be interfering with our desires with his conservative and traditional ways. We are richer today in self-dependence so much so that we think poorer to leave God behind.

Today’s second reading speaks of the rich “beautifully dressed and with a gold finger on” and the poor “in shabby clothes”. When we read it carefully, it is not a damning verdict on the materially rich but a warning against the discrimination of the poor. This particular rich man did not leave God behind otherwise he wouldn’t be appearing at the synagogue.

The poverty of the poor is obvious. They are shabby according to the world, materially poor in money and possessions. We must not be deceived into judgement and to discriminate against the poor. These days, we must also carefully watch our righteous self not to discriminate against the materially rich. For poverty according to God is the poverty of the spirit.

Beneath every rich person’s beautiful clothing are also pockets of poverty. Every person, rich and poor alike, struggle with the challenges of daily life. We will experience poverty in love, happiness, fulfilment; poverty in losses, relationships and health. This is inevitable in our human world. It is in these pockets of poverty where God come to call. Those “who are poor according to the world that God chose, to be rich in faith and to be the heirs to the kingdom which he promised to those who love him”.

It is through challenges in life where we become richer in faith. We are called to go into the world of spiritual poverty to unclasp the hands of the material world that cover our eyes, ears and mouth taking away our dependence on God. We must not be afraid of losing what we have but to use whatever material richness to address this poverty of the spirit. When we race only for ‘self’, there will be no winners, rich or poor. We must not choose the way of the modern day monkey, “I don’t want to see, listen, do or care”.

“‘Courage! Do not be afraid. Look, your God is coming, he is coming to save you.’ Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, the ears of the deaf unsealed, then the lame shall leap like a deer and the tongues of the dumb sing for joy”.

As people we must become richer. Christ want us to have this richness to live life through being poor in spirit. “Ephphatha, be opened”.

3 wise monkeys

23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time