29 September 201926 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
26 Ordinary Time
26 Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle C
Luke 16:19-31

The rich man of today's story was "a winner in this life," says James Tahaney, "and a loser in the next."

Dogs and cats in the United States eat more nutritious food than do the homeless in refugee camps in the third world. That chilling information is reported by The New York Times.

What a masterful storyteller and wordsmith the Master is. It boggles the mind to reflect how much He was able to squeeze into twelve verses. He is a teacher par excellence.

For openers, the Christ tells us that there is clearly survival after death.

Incidentally, we are fortunate enough to have forty parables. And this is the only one where a principal is named. The poor fellow is the famous Lazarus. His poverty ironically enough has won him more than a measure of immortality. The rich man is without a name. Perhaps Jesus intended that you and I should offer our names to the wealthy individual of the tale. After all, we live in a nation which controls a good portion of the world's resources.

Secondly, this parable informs us that some of us will live in bliss after our deaths. We shall sit in God's lap eating fresh strawberries out of season. We shall live in a comfort which is even beyond the state of the art.

Unhappily some of us shall go to that other place. You might call it the pits. There we will find neither room service nor terry cloth bathrobes. Rather, we shall sit clutching our heads and weeping for our miserable selves.

Polls show that many of our company do not buy hell. Unhappily there is one serious problem with that conviction. The Son of God did. He referred to God's punishment and the existence of hell about ninety times in the Gospels. It is important to reflect that God does not send us to hell. It is we who dispatch our unhappy selves.

Thirdly whether we shall ride first class on the posh Orient Express or as a bum on a freight train depends on our conduct in the here and now.

The rich fellow wound up sweating excessively in hell not because he was bad or mean. Remember he let Lazarus sit at the front door of his mansion. He permitted him to check out his garbage cans for his food. You and I might well have called the cops and had them haul Lazarus away.

Rather, the wealthy man did nothing to help Lazarus. He simply stepped over him and ignored him. He allowed the poor fellow to blend in with the decor. So, we do not have to be genetic scientists to make some elementary deductions. After our respective deaths, it will not be sufficient to say, "O God, behold a person who has done nothing wrong." God will impatiently brush that statement aside. We will hear Him ask, "Spare me that tired line. Tell me of the good you have done."

Fourthly after death our life will forever flash before us. The millionaire was able to review his life with much pain and remorse. He constantly told himself, "Yes, of course, I should have helped that fellow. I could have given him at least a small portion of my wealth." The line he will mumble over and over again is that of Robby Burns, "The saddest words of tongue and pen are these: it might have been."

Fifthly the place we ship out to after death is the last stop. There will be no Claude Rains of Casablanca fame to arrange an exit visa even to a Foreign Legion fort. We learn this from God's refusal to send Lazarus down into the pits with a six pack of cold beer. Any bottle we get down there will have a hole in the bottom as well as the top.

Sixthly (is there such a word?) God does not intend to take extraordinary means to acquaint us with the rules of the contest. Obviously He feels that we will find all the information we need in the Gospels. We learn this from God's refusal to allow the rich man to fax a message to his brothers to shape up and fly right.

One does not hear today about the six truths contained in this centuries old tale. Yet, though we may be too inhibited to speak of the last four things - death, judgment, heaven, hell, - Jesus the Christ is not.

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
26 Ordinary Time
Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Legacy

This week the Downton Abbey movie is being released!! I loved that PBS series and can't wait to see the movie. I'm sure many of you feel the same way. Along with the caustic and hilarious comments of the Dowager Countess played by Maggie Smith and the intriguing soap opera plot-lines, many of us were fascinated by the portrayal of the noble Crawly family and the people in service to them. What did those rich people do all day? All they seemed to do was dress for dinner and attend various lunches. Their staff worked their land. They even had nannies to take care of their children, seeing the children just once a day in the afternoon.

The Crawleys seemed to be like the idle rich of Amos, laying on their beds of ivory, drinking wine and oblivious to all around them. But as the series progressed, the members of the Crawly family became more and more involved in other people's lives. They turned their mansion into a hospital during World War I. They cared for the people who cared for them, and even, gasp, they got real jobs. The most important aspect of the series was the character development, the change in the Crawleys as they recognized their responsibility to those around them.

Downton Abbey was just fiction, but in real life there are many people, and sometimes some of us, who become so wrapped up in our own worlds that we miss our responsibilities to those around us. It is easy for us to miss the Lazaruses begging at our doors.

Elissa Ely wrote a story in the Boston Globe back in 2010 about an elderly lady I'll call Aunt Harriet. Aunt Harriet and her husband, Uncle Phil, never had children, but Phil's large extended family provided them with many nieces and nephews to watch grow up. They would go to all the family gatherings. Harriet was painfully shy. She was always at Phil's side, saying little more than, "Hi, how are you?" or "Good to see you." She did her part, baking tarts and cookies, but the others barely noticed her. After dinner, she would just sit somewhere and watch the children playing.

Harriet and Phil lived only a few neighborhoods away from most of the family. They would send Birthday presents and Christmas presents to their nieces and nephews, but they would only receive thank you notes back, even though the recipients could have easily paid them a visit, particularly after the nephews and nieces grew up. Harriet and Phil gave generously to their family. Their family responded minimally. The nieces and nephews weren't inconsiderate. They were just busy.

Phil died first. Harriet continued to live in their house, but without Phil to lean on, she saw his family less and less. As time went on, though, one of her nieces, Claire, decided to look in on Aunt Harriet. She started visiting her regularly. They became a close friends.

Harriet died rather suddenly. Claire took it upon herself to pack up Harriet's belongings. She brought many of these to the next family gathering--photos, paintings, knickknacks. Then as everyone was sitting around the table, Claire took out a large stuffed envelope. She emptied it on to the table. It was all their thank you notes. Harriet had saved them. The rest of the family looked at each other. It was only too late when they realized what they meant to Harriet.

There are many Lazaruses at our own gates, in our own families, and in our neighborhoods. They are the people that we easily overlook, dismiss, or ignore. Today's gospel challenges us to remove the blinders of self-centeredness from our eyes and see God right here among the poor, the isolated, the marginalized, and, particularly, those we are inclined to ignore. Every human being is created in the image and likeness of God. Every person has dignity. We need that humility that enables us to embrace one other as brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of God.

One more story, this one is about an elderly widow named Mattie Dixon. This is taken from a book of stories by Fred Craddock. Mattie died at age eighty-nine. She didn't have children. There were some distant great grand nieces and nephews, but they didn't know her well. They didn't even attend the funeral. Mattie didn't have a will. She had not taken care of anything before she passed away. Taxes and other bills had to be paid. The state took over. An auctioneer came and strangers sifted through all of Mattie's personal effects. One of these was her wedding ring. It was a heavy old ring that Mattie often turned around her finger. Now before Mattie died someone said to her, "Mattie, I love that ring. I'll give you a thousand dollars for it."

Mattie responded, "This ring represents fifty-six years of marriage. You want to buy it? I wouldn't sell it for a million dollars."

The time came for the auction. The auctioneer held up the ring. Then, down came the gavel. "Sold for ten dollars."

Today's Gospel confronts us with the question of wealth: what is of true value and what have we deceived ourselves into assigning a far greater value than its worth. Like Mattie Dixon's wedding ring, true and lasting value is determined not by scales and tables, but by the heart. A ten dollar band of metal became an invaluable sign of a lifetime shared together in the spirit of God's love.

Yes, we must prepare for our future and our family's future. However, we cannot fool ourselves into thinking that our legacy will be found in the size of our portfolio or the number of rooms in our house. We will be remembered not for what we take but for what we give. Our legacy will be what we do to make the world a happier, healthier place for all God's sons and daughters.

And, finally, our legacy will be our children. When we appear before the Lord at the end of our time, the greatest of His gifts which we can return to Him will be our children reflecting His Love in the world.

So we have Aunt Harriet, whose legacy was her love for her nephews and nieces, a love was overlooked by those who were loved, and old Mattie, whose legacy was the lasting value found in committed love. Oh yes, and then there is that story that the Lord told. A story of a rich man who had ignored Lazarus and who valued his possessions over love for his fellow man. It was the story of a rich man who had no legacy.

May we have the courage to withstand the temptation of the world to be swept up in materialism. May we never be too busy to reach out to those who need our love. May we have the determination to embrace love for others, and through others, love for our God.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
26 Ordinary Time
(September 29, 2019)

Bottom line: We have Moses and the prophets to guide us. They teach us to fast, pray and share. Above all, we have someone who has risen from the dead.

This Sunday's Gospel underscores what we saw last week: We face a crisis and we need to take decisive action. Use wealth, Jesus said, to make friends who will welcome you into eternal life. Whether we like it or not, we are involved in a high stakes game. The decisions we make have eternal consequences. We see this in Abraham's words to the rich man who wakes up in torment: "between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours."

How did the rich man find himself on the wrong side? Jesus gives a clue. He says that the man "dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day." Clothes can become an obsession and a person can spend all his money on the latest styles. But I think what most brought down the rich man was dining sumptuously every day. Let me explain.

It's no sin to enjoy a delicious meal, especially with family and friends. The problem is that he dined sumptuously every day. That means he never fasted. This is different from Jesus. Although Our Lord enjoyed wonderful meals, he also fasted. Before beginning his public ministry, he fasted forty days. And he said his disciples would fast when he was taken from them.

We Catholics used to practice meatless Fridays and we still do during Lent. I know many of you abstain from meat on Fridays or other days. Some of you practice the Daniel Fast avoiding from savory foods such as meat, eggs, dairy, sweets, alcohol, etc.

Fasting has a way of waking us up. In the Bible fasting is connected to care for those who have less. The rich man who dined sumptuously every day never connected with Lazarus. So focused on his stylish clothes and sumptuous meals, he didn't offer the poor man even the scraps from his table. The dogs lived better than Lazarus.

In reaching out to the poor we should follow the example of St. Vincent de Paul. He went to people's homes and treated the needy person as if he were Jesus. Our St. Vincent de Paul Society tries to follow that example.

To give cash to someone at a freeway exit can be counter productive. Better to first spend time listening, trying to discern what the person really needs. If you cannot do that, support those who do: Catholic Community Service, our parish St. Vincent's or the Mary Bloom Center. And all of us can make the effort to connect with someone on the margins - maybe in our own families.

The stakes are high. How a person treats the Lazarus at our doorstep will determine his eternal fate. We have ample warning. Jesus says that "If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead". Well, someone has risen from the dead.

To sum up: Abraham tells the rich man there's a great chasm between heaven and hell. When we die we are fixed eternally - either turned toward God or away from him. The devil wants to distract us: fine clothes, sumptuous dining every day, drugs, porn, rage, you name it. Jesus invites us to take the narrow gate, the one that leads to peace with God. We have Moses and the prophets to guide us. They teach us to fast, pray and share. Above all, we have someone who has risen from the dead. Amen.

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
26 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
26 Ordinary Time
Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

What we have for this Sunday's Gospel is what seems at first sight to be a straightforward parable about social justice. It is a story about the rich and the poor and in particular it is about how in the final analysis it is the poor and the persecuted who will be vindicated by God.

There is something interesting to be seen when we study the names these two characters are given. The name in the text for the poor man is Lazarus and in Hebrew this originally means 'God is my help.' It is easy to see just how suitable this name is for a poor man who is eventually justified by God.

In the text the rich man is not given an actual name but down through the centuries he has been known by the name of Dives. This word has the same root as the word divine and means 'favoured by God.' It is also very a fitting name since in his life Dives was most definitely favoured by God because he had come into great wealth and lived a very comfortable life.

Lazarus languishes at Dives gate apparently unnoticed by everyone apart from the dogs who licked his sores. When he dies he is carried away to the Bosom of Abraham. This term 'the Bosom of Abraham' was used in Biblical times to describe the place in the afterlife where the righteous remained awaiting Judgement Day. Then as it so prosaically says, 'the rich man died and was buried.' There is no Bosom of Abraham for him!

Difficult though it may have been Lazarus' life was relatively straightforward. He lived very poorly and suffered a lot in his life and but when he dies he is destined for heaven.

In the case of Dives it is quite different. In his earthly life he enjoys his riches and doesn't seem to notice Lazarus at his gate; but on death he is called to account for this oversight and suffers the consequences since he is consigned to the sufferings of hell.

So far it seems to be a straightforward account of the rich and the poor and how God will ultimately deal with them. Even so we have to be careful because it is not riches or poverty that distinguishes Dives and Lazarus but what they do with their wealth or lack of it. It is because Dives neglects his responsibility towards Lazarus that he is condemned, not for the simple fact of being rich.

We then move to the theological bit of the story and it is here that it ceases to be directly about riches and poverty and turns into a parable about those who fail to recognise the Messiah.

Dives first of all asks for water to cool his tongue but then when this request is refused he requests that a warning be given to his brothers and so he asks Abraham to inform them what has happened so that they can take steps to avoid his fate. As it is a parable we are dealing with we recognise that the brothers of Dives actually represent the rest of the Jewish people.

Abraham is the father of the Jewish nation and so he is a good person to intervene with God which is why Dives addresses him. But Abraham refuses his request saying that Moses and the Prophets had already taught the people what to do to get to heaven but were completely ignored.

Dives replies by saying that this may be so but if someone were to come back from the dead then they would get attention. But Abraham refuses his request once again saying that if the people rejected the Prophets then they would also reject whoever came back from the dead.

Of course, this last part of the parable is all about Christ and about how he was rejected even though his coming was foretold by the Prophets. At this point in his ministry Jesus had not risen from the dead but it is clear allusion by him that these events were just around the corner.

So in the end the parable is about Jesus and about his acceptance by some and his rejection by others. The justice and peace element about Lazarus lying at the gate reinforces this main point because those who accept Jesus are much more likely to see Lazarus and to care for him insofar as they can. On the other hand those who reject Jesus are more interested in themselves and so they are very likely to ignore Lazarus and look only to their own immediate interests.

The reason that someone who accepts Christ is more likely to see Lazarus and to try to help him is because they will realise that Christ did not come to save just one or two people in the world but in fact he came to save every single person. In the Christian understanding then every single person is of equal value.

The believer sees Lazarus not as a poor man of little worth but rather as a redeemed child of God. The believer sees beyond what is immediately apparent and sees Lazarus' true nature shining through. The believer knows the price that Jesus has paid for the soul of Lazarus and therefore recognises his inestimable value before God.

We Christians therefore look at the poor in a different light; their dignity according to us comes from the fact that Christ has given his life for them. We think that if Christ is willing to make such a huge sacrifice on their behalf then we ought to be doing the same. We realise that Christ sees something in them which is of inestimable value; we realise that he sees that their basic humanity is of immense worth. For these reasons we cannot ever write them off or disregard their presence.

What we then ought to be doing is cherishing the poor and needy. What we ought to be doing is to learn to love them. Of course, this is not always easy and in some particular cases it can be very difficult indeed. But we need to try; we need to work at learning to love the poor and disregarded people of our world, because this is the Christian way.

The primary thing is not to treat the poor as a group but as a whole series of individuals. What we need to do is not so much to dish out money to charity as to establish relationships with the poor people we come into contact with. It is by treating them as people each with their own personal human dignity that we begin to conform to what God wants.

In this way poor people become individual human beings to whom we can relate and not a dehumanised amorphous mass who can be easily disregarded. Each person is a unique child of God and therefore each person deserves our respect and we are required to deal with them as equals and give them the justice that they deserve.
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