26 Sep Twenty Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 25, 2016
Father Shawn Hughes
Homilies are never the creative act of one person. So as we begin to post these homilies on our website I would like to state first and foremost that there will be nothing original in the following. My homilies are a result of my prayer, reading and study as it pertains to the particular gospel of the week. Thus, I beg, borrow and steal from the wisdom of those who have gone before me and together with the Holy Spirit acting in my own prayer considering the needs of our particular parish community here at St. Mary’s, a homily appears by the weekend. If there is something that edifies you I can take no credit for it. ‘Tis the result of the work of the Holy Spirit and those from whom I have gleaned wisdom over time. If there is something that you might wish to discuss I am always available and would welcome any opportunity to speak about the Scriptures.
God bless you. Father Shawn
Last week we heard clearly that disciples of Jesus cannot worship both God and money. This week our readings give very clear examples of those who failed to be disciples; those who failed to worship God and worship money in His place.
You could entitle our first reading today from the prophet Amos as “Woe to the complacent…” or “Woe to the indifferent…” It warns us not to be too satisfied with ourselves about our place in the world – especially if we forget to notice other people around us. He describes people living in luxury, eating and drinking the best of everything, thinking only of themselves. Not noticing those in need around them. Amos concludes, “They shall be the first to go into exile.” In the spiritual life, the opposite of love is not hatred. The opposite of love is indifference, complacency…the true disciple is never indifferent to the plight of those around them. Never complacent with unjust situations.
We are given a very concrete example of indifference and complacency in Luke’s Gospel of the Rich Man and Lazarus. Jesus tells of a nameless Rich Man who lived a life of excess. He didn’t just eat well, he “dined sumptuously each day.” Yet literally at his doorstep was Lazarus, a starving man who longed for the scraps that fell from the Rich Man’s table. But as the Rich Man walked past him every day coming and going to his house, it never occurred to him to help his fellow human sprawled in front of him.
The Rich Man failed to have mercy on his brother…to have compassion on him. In fact the Rich Man failed to see Lazarus as his brother. He failed to see any dignity in Lazarus whatsoever. Later he finds himself in Hell because of his indifference, his complacency, his lack of compassion.
This gospel underscores the absolute imperative that we must be merciful here and now, so that we receive mercy later. St. Augustine said of this text: “The reason the rich man does not receive mercy in eternity is because he did not show mercy in his life.” St. Ephrem said of this text: “We cannot hope for pardon in the end, unless the fruits of pardon can be seen in us.”
The Scriptures are full of this imperative that we must be merciful here in this life, if we are to receive mercy in the next life.
The prophet Isaiah clearly states how disciples of God are to relate to one another. In chapter 58 God speaks to us his disciples and instructs us “to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free,…? to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and to never turn your back on your own.” (Isaiah 58:6-7)
The sermon on the Mount begins with how we shall achieve beatitude, one of which is: “Blessed are the merciful. For they shall receive mercy.” (Matthew 5:7) The sermon comes to an end with Jesus saying: “The measure you give will be the measure you get.” Matthew 7:2 And later in Matthew’s gospel Jesus states: “ Whoever gives one of my little ones a cup of cold water simply in the name of a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will not lose his reward.” Matthew 10:42.
Most radically in Matthew 25, the gospel of the judgement of the nations, Jesus identifies His very self with the poor. Listen to it: “31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of my brothers and sisters you did it to me.’ 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Jesus radically identifies Himself with those in need. The hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, the imprisoned…When we show them mercy Jesus says 2e do it to Him…You…did…it…to ….me!” Mother Teresa’s, St. Teresa of Calcutta’s, five finger catechism. “The parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus illustrates specifically one to whom it will be said: “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.”
I think we sometimes lull ourselves into thinking that it doesn’t really matter how I act towards others. I don’t have to me merciful. I don’t have to forgive. I don’t have to overlook others differences. I can ignore the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the stranger, the sick, the imprisoned.
Today’s readings clearly highlight there will be no special dispensation for those who refuse the needs of the wretched at their gate. If they will not hear the Scriptures and be merciful, they show that they have placed themselves beyond the reach of God’s mercy. Ultimately we are to radically identify with the five brothers in the parable. True disciples of Jesus Christ listen to Moses and the Prophets and all the Scriptures and allow them to change their heart to their brothers and sisters in need.
Pope Francis provides the example for us to follow in his name sake St. Francis of Assisi. The Holy Father highlights that Francis abandoned riches and comfort in order to become a poor man among the poor. He understood that true joy and riches do not come from the idols of this world –material things and the possession of them –but are to be found only in following Christ and serving others. Less well known, perhaps, is the moment when this understanding took concrete form in St. Francis of Assisi’s own life. It was when he embraced a leper. This suffering brother was the “mediator of light…for Saint Francis of Assisi” (Lumen Fidei, 57), because in every suffering brother and sister that we embrace, we embrace the suffering Body of Christ. (7/24/13, Providence)
Who is sick in your life and requires compassion and caring? Who in your life would benefit from a visit? Who is imprisoned…perhaps not jail but imprisoned in prejudice, lack of forgiveness, by your judgment or criticism …. Who in your life is hungry or who thirsts…for food, for love, for recognition…who is naked… stripped…and needs being clothed with dignity…or Jesus also says to you and to me, his disciples,…when we respond to those in need in our own parish, our family or throughout our daily life Jesus also says: “Whenever you did this to the least of my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.”
In the Lord’s Prayer we pray so often: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” “Give us this day our daily bread” reminds us that Christians who pray sincerely must exercise responsibility toward their brothers and sisters, both in the personal behaviour and in their solidarity with the human family. This petition of the Lord’s Prayer cannot be isolated from the parables of the poor man Lazarus or of the Last Judgement. (CCC para 2831)
The rich, the powerful, and the ‘just’ find it very difficult to be humbly open to God; they are full of confidence in their own treasures and securities. The only real security is the one based on friendship with God and service of God: to be a servant of human beings and of God after the example of Jesus of Nazareth. Exalting oneself is a form of self-reliance as opposed to reliance on God. This makes clear why being rich, prosperous, satisfied almost naturally imply being arrogant, proud, godless. As human beings, we are radically weak and constantly try to cover up our weakness by finding security in power, wealth and status. This deception will ultimately be unmasked by God’s act of judgment. The only way to salvation is to recognize one’s weakness before God and to find one’s security in God alone.