Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, September 29
As We Continue Our Pilgrimage Through Life, May Each of Us Always Be Open to New Possibilities, to New Ways in Which We Can Grow in Our Personal Relationship with the God Who Has Given Us Every Good Gift.
In a homily Pope Saint John Paul II gave in 1979 to some 80,000 people gathered for Mass at Yankee Stadium in New York City, he stated, “…the Lazarus of the twentieth century stands at our doors.”
The suffering and the impoverished we see at times in the commercials advertised in our newspapers or on television are no different than the tormented and suffering Lazarus we read about in today’s Gospel.
Many of them, especially those in underdeveloped countries, live their lives each day from hour to hour. In the shadows of their own despair, especially if they feel forgotten or unloved, it becomes difficult for them to feel any sense of hope or see any “light at the end of the tunnel”.
For each of them, male or female, young or old, it becomes difficult to live a life with any sense of optimism, especially when those individuals or governments who have the financial or physical means fail to reach out a helping hand with the excesses which they do not need, especially when they blatantly fail or refuse to recognize the suffering Christ in the world around them.
In today’s First Reading, God is speaking through His prophet Amos concerning events perpetrated by God’s chosen people against their own kinsmen, a life of egocentric and self-centeredness, in which the poor suffered and became more destitute, and the rich became richer and more self-absorbed, events which took place just before the Babylonian Exile. And we hear our Lord speaking to His people through His prophet Amos in our First Reading –
“Woe to the complacent in Zion! Lying upon beds of ivory, stretched comfortably on their couches, they eat lambs taken from the flock, and calves from the stall! …They drink wine from bowls and anoint themselves with the best oils; yet they are not made ill by the collapse of Joseph!” In other words, they gave no thought to the needs of their suffering kinsmen in their midst.
And Jesus was drawing a parallel to this sad historical fact and the consequences of living a life which removes God from our midst with His parable of Lazarus and the rich man. For we hear in our Gospel how this rich man, having lived a life of luxury and self-centeredness with no concern or regard for the less fortunate, was cursed, enduring the torments of Hell, “Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.”
In John Paul’s homily, he posed a question to his listeners, “Was the rich man condemned because he had riches, because he abounded in earthly possessions, because he ‘dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day’?
“No, I would say that it was not for this reason. The rich man was condemned because he did not pay attention to the other man. Because he failed to take notice of Lazarus, the person who sat at his door and who longed to eat the scraps from his table.”
Nowhere in the Gospels do we find Christ condemning the mere possession of earthly goods, as such. Instead, sometimes in very harsh words, he speaks against those who use their possessions in selfish ways, without paying attention to the needs of those who are less fortunate!
The Sermon on the Mount begins with our Lord’s words: “Blessed are the poor in spirit…” And, at the end of the account of the Last Judgment, as found in Saint Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus speaks the words that we all know so well:
“For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.”
For the many who are afflicted with so many trials and misfortunes in today’s world, what sustains them in the midst of their sufferings? As a Christian people, what sustains us in the various trials we sometimes endure in our daily struggle through this vale of tears?
In the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah, we find the words, “Blessed
is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose hope is the LORD.” And Paul
reminds Timothy in our Second Reading today, “But you, man of God, pursue
righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness.
Compete well for the faith. Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called…”
And Saint Faustina, when facing the many difficulties she sometimes endured, wrote, “When I feel that the suffering is more than I can bear, I take refuge in the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, and I speak to Him with profound silence” (Diary, 73).
Jesus’ parable about the afflictions of the poor man, Lazarus, brings home a similar point. In this story, Jesus speaks about the consequences of turning away from God by painting a dramatic scene of contrasts – poverty and riches, Heaven and Hell, compassion and indifference, inclusion and exclusion!
We also see an abrupt and dramatic reversal of fortune – the afflicted Lazarus, who suffered horribly in this life, is reclining at the bosom of Abraham, a symbol of Heaven, a symbol of eternal rest.
Whereas, for the rich man who ignored Lazarus while he lived – turning a deaf ear and a blind eye to his needs – he found his own fortunes reversed at the end of his life. In God’s Divine Justice, those who hold on possessively to what they have, lose it all in the end, while those who share generously receive back many times more than what they gave away.
Today’s parable does not allow us to see into the heart of Lazarus, but we are given a picture of the heart of the rich man. In all his wealth and in his self-absorption with greed, the rich man could not see beyond his own material wealth and possessions. He not only had everything he needed, he selfishly spent all he had on himself! He was too absorbed in what he possessed to notice the needs of those around him, even to notice Lazarus at the foot of his own door.
Sadly, he lost sight of God and the treasure of Heaven because he was preoccupied with seeking happiness in material belongings; he served wealth rather than God. In the end, the rich man became a beggar, and the beggar became rich in the eternal blessings which awaited him.
In a homily Pope Francis gave at Mass in Saint Peter’s Square in Rome, Italy in September 2013, he stated, “Whenever material things, money, worldliness, become the center of our lives, they take hold of us, they possess us; we lose our very identity as human beings.” And our hearts slowly become like that of the rich man.
As we continue our pilgrimage through life, reflecting upon our life of faith and our personal relationship with God, may each of us always be open to new possibilities, to new ways in which we can grow in our relationship of love and intimacy with the God who has given us every good gift!
And may He give to you and me a generous heart, truly caring for the needs of our brothers and sisters, freely sharing with others the spiritual and material treasures our God has given to each of us – always remembering the words our Savior once gave us –
“Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me…Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”
May God bless you, God love you, and may God always keep you. †
Please Comment, Like and Share, and Suggest to your Facebook friends – to spread the message of God’s Merciful Love.
Por favor Comente, Le Gusta y Comparta, y Sugiera a tus amigos en Facebook – en difundir el mensaje del Misericordioso Amor de Dios.
Scripture for the Day
- “Woe to those who are complacent in Zion…Those who lie on beds of ivory, and lounge upon their couches; Eating lambs taken from the flock, and calves from the stall…Who drink wine from bowls, and anoint themselves with the best oils, but are not made ill by the collapse of Joseph.” (Amos 6:1a, 4, 6)
- “There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table.” (Luke 16:19-21a)
- “And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.’” (Luke 16:24)
- “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’” (Matthew 25:41-43)
- “No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matthew 6:24)
- “Blessed are those who trust in the LORD; the LORD will be their trust.” (Jeremiah 17:7)
- “But you, man of God, pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. Compete well for the faith. Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called…” (1 Timothy 6:11-12b)
- “Those who give to the poor have no lack, but those who avert their eyes, many curses.” (Proverbs 28:27)
- “Whoever cares for the poor lends to the LORD, who will pay back the sum in full.” (Proverbs 19:17)
- “He began to teach them, saying: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:2-6)
- “Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me…Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’” (Matthew 25:34-36, 40b)
Prayer for the Day
“Keep me, O God, from pettiness;
let me be large in thought, in word, in deed.
Let me be done with fault-finding and self-seeking.
May I put away all pretense and meet everyone
face-to-face without self-pity and without prejudice.
“May I never be hasty in judgment and always generous.
Let me take time for all things.
Make me grow calm, serene and gentle.
Teach me to put into action my better impulses,
straightforward and unafraid.
“Lord, grant that I may fully realize
it is the little things in life that create differences
and that, in the big things of life, we are all truly one in You.
And, O Lord God, let me not forget to be generous with love!
This I ask in Jesus’ Most Holy Name. Amen.”Anonymous