Friday, September 30, 2016

Where is Lazarus - Homily for September 25

Readings for Sunday, September 25 / 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time: Amos 6:1, 4-7 | Psalm 146 | 1 Timothy 6:11-16 | Luke 16:19-31

This weekend we have the uncomfortable reminder that our salvation is not just based off of me and Jesus, but it's me, Jesus and every person I come in contact with through the course of my life - which again should be a little scary for us.

The reading from the prophet Amos and the psalm are a study of contrast to help us get primed for that reflection. The prophet Amos is the type of person that likes to point people out and call attention to the things they are doing and go about the litany of their hard heartedness. And we hear more of that today - how he looks at Israel as the whole entire people, and says "Look, you're sitting on your ivory beds, your nice linens and fancy couches, and you eat all the finest things. You're so self-concerned and complacent. There is nothing really in your heart, except that." It's a very strong rebuke he gives to them.

In contrast to that we have the example of God, who comes in Psalm 146 and describes ways that are entirely unselfish, ways that He pours Himself out simply for the love of others. How the Lord comes to set captives free and give sight to the blind, raise the lowly, protect strangers, help widows and orphans, and certainly we could add to the list. It's interesting - these two: to be self-concerned or to be selfless. That's what it is when it comes down to it.

A lot of time whenever we think about ourselves as sinners, whenever we think about our sins, it seems that we consider most the sins of commission - the words, deeds, thoughts, the actions that are actively done, we know they are bad, and yet we do them anyway. How many times have we said in the confessional, "I thought bad things.  I said something negative about someone. I gossiped. Cursed at the TV last night during the game. Cursed the coach. I drank or ate a little too much .." We think about the things that we do and we think that stuff is bad - and it is - but are we mindful of the things we failed to do that we should've done? That's what the Gospel calls us to reflect upon - the sins of omission, that we have omitted something we ought to have done out of love for Christ.

We see that the Lord gives us the example of, a presumably fictional account, a rich man and Lazarus with Abraham acting there in the midst. The rich in the end, much like that of Israel, has all the fine things: a purple robe, a sign of royalty and richness; his fancy linens; he dines sumptuously each day. It shows the extent to which he is taking care of himself. It's not bad to take care of oneself, but in the midst of it, we have to be concerned about others as well. The rich man passes Lazarus each day as Lazarus sits on his doorstep. As Jesus describes the story, He doesn't say that the rich man actually did anything sinful. He didn't walk outside the door and curse Lazarus. he didn't call him names, kick him or spit at him on the way out. He didn't even think bad thoughts about him necessarily. He didn't do anything - and that's exactly the problem. Lazarus was there, day by day, right outside his doorstep, and the man knows it. And he knows Lazarus - and that's the catch. Whenever he sees Abraham far off, he sees Lazarus and he asked Abraham to send Lazarus - not that guy at the doorstep - send Lazarus. He knows his name. And yet still the hardness of his heart was so much that he didn't do anything for him. A grievous sin of omission, and it is because he failed to do something he ought to have done and thus finds himself in the torments. Again, so often we focus on what we've actually done that was bad. But remember when we fail to do what is good, also bears great weight in the story of our salvation.

One wanted to come up with a little jingle for it, but I didn't because I wanted to get it stuck in your head and get frustrated that you wouldn't get it out. I want a question to roll around in your mind through the course of this week, and if anyone wants to make up a jingle and let me know afterward, by all means, I won't be upset. I want you to think of one question over and over, throughout the day and the course of this week; maybe put a sign in your house or in your car. The question I want you to think over and over again is: Where is Lazarus? As you go to work, to school, on the road, to the store, in your home ... All through the course of our week we encounter many Lazaruses. It doesn't have to be the extreme example of the Lazarus in the story where he is sick, wounded and hungry at our doorstep dying in a sense. It doesn't have to be to that extreme, but sometimes it is. More often that not it's some small needs - someone who is need in a little way - a little word of encouragement or a small deed of kindness, a simple act of love. Those little things, that unlike the rich man, we can crucify our hearts to be able to let Christ come forth from us and show love, to allow my self-concern be set aside, my comfort to be set aside so that Christ can come forth and love.

That's the main piece: Jesus calls us to love, which is a positive action. When asked what was the greatest commandment, He had the 10 Commandments which were all "Thou shalt not's" and He opted for something different that was more basic: love God and love neighbor - positive things. Not just to avoid something pad, but to choose to do something good because it's harder. It's harder to reach outside of ourselves and do good. It's easy to shrink back from doing bad - you just don't do it. But to go the extra step to do something good is a different story.

So we ask the Lord to be with us this week, the grace of this Mass, the grace of our time of prayer - that the Lord may give us new eyes, in a sense, to see as we go through the course of this week "Where is Lazarus?".