Homilies for September 2019

For September 1, September 8, September 15, September 22, and September 29.

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Sep. 1, 2019

  Readings: Sir 3:17–18, 20, 28–29 • Ps 68:4–7, 10–11 • Heb 12:18–19, 22–24a • Lk 14:1, 7–14
  usccb.org/bible/readings/090119.cfm

St. Luke’s Gospel is famous for turning things on their head. Whatever the reader or the characters of the Gospel might expect is usually the opposite of what in fact happens. Today’s Gospel is an example of this.

We find Jesus at the house of a Pharisee. This in itself is quite surprising, given that they were the ones so often working against our Blessed Lord and His mission. What is even more strange, however, is that the unnamed Pharisee is not the one in charge — even in his own house! Rather, Jesus is the One everybody is “observing carefully,” and when He notices how everybody is behaving — how everyone is vying for the best spot, to be seen, to be heard — He takes the opportunity to teach everybody about one of the greatest Christian virtues: humility.

Humility, as the history of the word suggests, is the virtue that reminds us of who we are. The word itself means “lowness” and has roots which mean “earth, ground, soil, dust.” Humility, then, reminds the humble man of what God told Adam after he disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden: “Remember, man, you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (cf. Gen 3:19). Even more radically, humility is the virtue by which we remember that God is truly everything, and we are nothing. This was central to the teaching of St. Catherine of Siena, who heard these words from the Eternal Father: “Do you know, daughter, who you are and who I am? If you know these two things you will have beatitude within your grasp.  You are she who is not, and I AM HE WHO IS” (Raymond of Capua, Life of Catherine of Siena). In one sense, then, Jesus is reminding everybody that they shouldn’t be looking out for their own best, because they are not worthy of the best—they are nothing! As such, they should give the best to those around them, for they would deserve it more.

This Gospel is not simply this, however. It would be pretty depressing if it was only meant to tell us how miserably lowly we all are as humans . . . even though that is true because we are proud sinners. No, rather, there is something more here — something that teaches us of the joy and greatness of being humble. Jesus was telling the people at the Pharisee’s house — and He is also telling us here — that if we remember how little we are, if we remember our nothingness, if we exalt others before ourselves instead of pridefully and selfishly grabbing at the best — if we do all the things a humble person would do, we will be joyful for doing so. And, to top it off, we will be rewarded by being exalted ourselves by God Himself, for that is how God works. Jesus said as much in the Gospel: “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” And in return for this, “you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

What is more, Jesus did not just speak of these things: He lived them! Even from the first moments of His life His humility shines through: Even though He is God, He humbled Himself “taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Ph 2:7). “[He] was born in a humble stable, into a poor family. Simple shepherds were the first witnesses to this event. In this poverty heaven’s glory was made manifest” (CCC 525). In the end, He even “humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” with the result that “God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name” (Ph 2:89). See the topsy-turvy nature of the Gospel coming through? Because Jesus was humble, He was exalted above all things. By being humble ourselves, then, we imitate the very life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus. Jesus lives in us when we are humble. And just as Jesus was rewarded for His humility, so will we be. If we are humble, we can hope for the exaltation that we hear of in the second reading: the reward of “Mount Zion, and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.”

Jesus does not leave us without a practical roadmap in this regard. He goes on to say in the Gospel that the way of humility involves befriending “the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind.” By doing this, even and especially when it inconveniences us, we again imitate our Blessed Lord and all that He did to help the poor and suffering. This of course is intended in a physical way: there are many who are poor, crippled, lame, and blind in our community, and they need the assistance of Christians. But perhaps we don’t know anybody personally with such ailments? I tell you, each of us in our own ways deals with these, even if not physically. We are all blind to the love of God. We are lame when we do not act on His Will. We are crippled by sin and impoverished by our own lack of love. We don’t have to look far then for opportunities to be humble servants of our neighbors — of our friends in Christ. But we must do so in love and humility, always seeking the best for them and not hoping to get anything — any recognition, reward, or repayment — for ourselves. In fact, “blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you,” “for your reward will be great in heaven” (Mt 5:12).

You have some homework this week, then! First, you must pray for humility. It is not something that comes easily or naturally to us, so we must ask God for help. There is a lovely prayer written a while back called the Litany of Humility which I find helpful. Be careful, though! Praying for humility is a prayer that God likes to answer quickly! So do not be surprised if you ask for humility and all of a sudden God gives you a chance to practice! Don’t grumble or avoid it — seize the opportunity! Second, do something specific this week that will help you to grow in humility: visit your sick relative or neighbor, or even someone in the nursing home who may not have people to visit them. Make a meal for someone who does not have enough money to buy groceries. Offer to drive someone to Mass that has trouble getting out of the house. Pray for the “black sheep of the family” or someone that has offended you. Perhaps even offer them forgiveness. Whatever you do, though — be humble about it. Don’t tell everyone what you have done and don’t expect some reward for it. Let it be enough that your Father in heaven knows and sees your act of humility and love. Then rejoice, for your humility has made it so that Jesus has visited someone through you. He has shown love to someone, through you. Indeed, that should be reward enough!

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Sep. 8, 2019

  Readings: Wis 9:13–18b • Ps 90:3–6, 12–14, 17 • Phmn 9–10, 12–17 • Lk 14:25–33
  usccb.org/bible/readings/090819.cfm

I heard it said once that to know what we love, we can examine two things: our daily schedule and our bank statements. By doing this, we see how we invest two of the most important things we can “spend” in this world: time and money. In a roundabout way, this shows how we “spend” something a little less easy to see: our hearts and our love. Our Lord put it simply: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Mt 6:21).

Given today’s Gospel, this is important. We heard Jesus say to the crowds gathered around Him that “anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.” “Jesus enjoins his disciples to prefer him to everything and everyone, and bids them ‘renounce all that [they have]’ for his sake and that of the Gospel. Shortly before his passion he gave them the example of the poor widow of Jerusalem who, out of her poverty, gave all that she had to live on. The precept of detachment from riches is obligatory for entrance into the Kingdom of heaven” (CCC 2544).

“Okay, Jesus, that isn’t too bad, I suppose,” we might think. “I’ll donate to charity and help the poor.” But our Blessed Lord does not stop there. Not only did He say to renounce all our possessions, but He said we have to “hate” our closest family members, and even our life! Now before you run off to write a letter to your least favorite family member, let me clarify. The word that our Lord uses here does not have the same connotation that it does when He speaks of loving our enemies who hate us (cf., e.g., Lk 6:27). What it means here is rather that we cannot love anything or anyone, even family or our lives, more than Him. He and He alone must take the first place in our hearts. Remember the two great commandments? Love God and then neighbor, in that order. To turn that around would be to distort and destroy love, for “God is love” itself (1 Jn 4:16), and to love without Him is like trying to drink water from a sandpit. What is more, our love for God must be complete: heart, mind, and soul (cf. Mk 12:3031). Nothing can be held back. “Christ [must be] the center of all Christian life. The bond with him takes precedence over all other bonds, familial or social” (CCC 1618). So, when our Lord tells us that we are to hate even father and mother, He means that we cannot love them more than we love Him. And, indeed, if our love for them or for ourselves eclipses our love for Him, we must “hate” them, that is, love them less. For in that case they have become obstacles between us and Him, and, in reality, we will not really be loving them at all if that love is not founded in God.

So where do we stand in this relation to these questions? Do we really love God and neighbor as we should? Do we hold on to our possessions to the point that we love them, perhaps even more than God? We have to ask ourselves these questions, and regularly, for if we do not, we can easily fall into idolatry — we can make things like our phones, our money, our food, whatever it might be, into gods which then take the place of the one, true God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And if that happens in any way, as Jesus said today, we “cannot be His disciples.” And if we cannot be His disciples, we are doomed to be eternally destroyed . . .

All is not lost, however! Look again at the Gospel. Three times Jesus says that we cannot be His disciples. Basically, if we do not do these three things, we cannot follow Him. The first two we have mentioned: not loving God more than family or things. Unfortunately, we all do these things, and regularly to boot. The third time our Lord tells us we cannot follow Him, however, is actually our hope. Listen again: “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” Ah, there it is! The Cross! Our only hope!

Dear brothers and sisters, of course we do not love God as we ought. Of course, we love things more than God. For we do not love the CROSS! We do not like to suffer. To follow in the Passion of Christ. So often, all of us want the joys of Jesus without the Cross of Christ. But the Cross is central to everything. By the power of the Cross, we can be disciples of Jesus. By what He did and the Blood He shed, He gives us the power, the joy, and even the hope to love Him as we ought…and not to love other things as we ought not to. What is more, we have Him with us when we carry the Cross. He didn’t say “take up your Cross and start wandering around on your own.” He said “follow me.” So follow Him! He knows what it means to carry the Cross, and He can and will help us carry our own. And as we carry and follow, He will lead us down the right path, for He is the only true Way we can follow (cf. Jn 14:6).

As always, then, you have some homework this week. Broadly speaking, it is to strive to see things in the light of the Cross. Now, this doesn’t mean you have to go looking for suffering. The Lord will provide the right cross at the right time, which is to say, He will allow you to experience the Cross as He knows will be best for you. But, it does mean that when that cross comes we have to try to accept it, even if it just be something simple as having to wait behind someone at the ATM who is taking longer than we would like. More than this, however, I would like you to pray with the Cross this week. And to do that, you can look at what we said at the beginning: your bank statements and your daily schedule. How do you spend your time and money? Does our money go to superfluous things we don’t need, or is it used to support the Church and to help others who have less? Is our time spent in prayer, on works of charity, and with family, or wasted on too much television, or on sinful activities? Does our use of time and money “fit” with how our Lord spent His Life and Blood on the Cross? If not, “we cannot be His disciples.” But remain in hope, for we can always come back to the Cross. We can, sometime this week, sit down like the man about to build a tower or the king going to war, and take stock of where we stand in relation to the Cross. Anything that does not fit there has to go. We have to be willing to part with it for it has come between us and the Lord. Whatever remains will be a help in staying close to Jesus. So this week, dear friends, go to the Cross. Stay at the Cross. For there is Jesus. And He is the One we must follow if we hope to spend ourselves well.

 

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time  Sep. 15, 2019

  Readings: Ex 32:7–11, 13-14 • Ps 51:3–4, 12–13, 17, 19 • 1 Tm 1:12–17 • Lk 15:1–32
  usccb.org/bible/readings/091519.cfm

“This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance. Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners.” Do you believe that? No, do you really believe that? That Christ Jesus came to save sinners? Your answer to this question will reveal a lot about your heart, and in reality, it will influence the way you live your entire life. If, for example, you say “No I don’t really believe that,” it means you think either that Jesus did not come to save sinners, meaning He was a liar, or it means that you think there is no such thing as a “sinner,” or even “sin” for that matter. Those who say such things — and please God that we never do! — are those who do not think sinful things are actually evil. They say “I may not like them. You may not like them. But they can’t be sinful because there is no such thing as ‘sin’ and ‘evil.’” Those sorts of people can be likened to the Israelites in the first reading, who had “become depraved” by “turning away from the way [God] pointed out to them,” to the point that they started worshipping some image of a cow and committing all sorts of sins that would make any pious person blush with shame.

On the other hand, we have an even more frightening scenario: if we answer yes to believing that Jesus came to save sinners (which we must, by the way!), we admit two things: the first is that sin is something real. It is something that plagues us all and to which we have all been subject to some degree — we have all committed sin. This is frightening because it means we are slaves of death and are justly condemnable to an eternity in hell . . . At the same time, however! It also means that we believe what St. Paul said really is “trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance.” It means that we really believe that Jesus did in fact come to die on the Cross to save us from the power of sin and death. This means that we too can, also like St. Paul, rejoice to say that we “have been mercifully treated.” For by dying on the Cross, Jesus made it possible for us to leave the power of sin and be remade in the power of His life and grace.

Notice the clear difference here. Those who say Christ Jesus did not die for sinners end up in worse sin than they were before, and they can even end up on a path that takes them from bad to worse: the Israelites had to wander for forty difficult years in the desert. Those who say that Jesus did die for sinners, though, end up joyful, and thankful, even praising God that they were once sinners. This is because they recognize that in Jesus sin does not have power over them any longer. They, and hopefully we, recognize that He has freed us from sin by His Passion, and has, in showing mercy to us sinners, allowed us a chance to go even further from sin and come closer to Him, “the king of ages, incorruptible, invisible, the only God.”

A second question presents itself here, one which naturally follows the first. If the first was “do you believe Christ Jesus died to save sinners?”, the second which follows is, “If so, what do you do with that belief?” In other words, if you have said yes to the first question, what happens next? I said your answer would affect how you live, so how do you live based on this first question and your response? The Gospel today gives the various possibilities.

The first two parables give us examples of what should happen when someone else repents: the reaction, even among the angels, is one of rejoicing! And the reason is simple: something lost has been found. We have all had that light and joyful feeling when we finally found something important that had been lost. Well, the angels, and even God, rejoice when a sinner is “found” — that is when he comes back to God and asks for mercy — because a soul has been “found again.” And a soul is so many times important than a sheep or a coin. On the other hand, however, there are those who do not rejoice at such things. They are miserable when other people repent of their sinful ways. There can be many reasons for their miserable reaction, but the result is the same, as we see in the third Gospel parable today. The older brother is upset at his brother’s repentance and his father’s joy at “finding” the lost son. The result is that the older brother ends up lost himself! He excludes himself, willingly, from the fun of the party, but even more importantly, from his father’s love. He leaves the father’s house, which is exactly what the younger son did in the first place. He ends up in the same darkness that he condemns in his brother’s past. So, there are two options for us as well, then. We can rejoice like the angels and the father when we see someone’s repentance and request for mercy, or we can end up grumpy, miserable, and loveless like the older brother. And, again, it all comes back to whether you believe Christ Jesus died for sinners to set us free.

Now for the hard part. Our answer to this question does not only affect our reactions to other people and the way they live their lives. It also, and more immediately, affects the way we go about living our own. It affects whether we try to do good or evil. Look at the third parable again. The son who has gone off from his father and lived a life of sin eventually realized that he was in fact sinning his life away. It had gotten to the point that he was living with the pigs! His life had become no better than a pigsty. Once it had gotten that bad and he had nowhere else to turn — and perhaps had no worse sin he could commit — he realized how far he had fallen. He remembered the goodness of his father, of his father’s love, and of his father’s house. And so, full of disgust for his sinful ways, he says “I will rise and go to my father.” In essence, he went on to say “I will return to him whom I have rejected and ask his forgiveness for my sins. He may not treat me the same, but I cannot go on like this.” To his joyful surprise, his father does treat him the same, and even better. For now he treats him not only like his beloved son, but as his beloved son who has returned to life again in the father’s house. How could there not be a feast?! By asking forgiveness, his son was basically asking to be brought back from the land of death! And by forgiving him, the father granted such a radical request.

So where do you find yourself in answer to the questions I have asked? Do you rejoice like an angel when someone asks forgiveness, or bitterly hold a grudge? As for yourself, do you stay outside the father’s house, or come back to him asking forgiveness? You of course do not have to answer out loud now, but I would like you to answer well and soon. There are two ways to do so. One is to pray psalm 51, which we heard part of just a moment ago. If you truly believe that Jesus died for sinners, and that you are a sinner like the rest of us, pray that psalm which asks for forgiveness, but also pray it like one who knows God is willing to forgive—He sent His Son to die for sinners, so you can rest assured that He will forgive! For “[b]y going so far as to give up his own Son for us, God reveals that he is ‘rich in mercy’” (CCC 211).

The second way is even more important. If you believe that Jesus came to die for sinners, you admit that you are a sinner, and because of that you must go to confession. By going to confession, we act like the younger brother in the Gospel who recognized his sinfulness and his need for help. None of us can help ourselves out of sin. We can’t pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. It is absolutely impossible, my friends. Whenever we try we end up rolling around in the muck with the pigs. If, however, we are humble enough to say like that younger brother that “we have sinned against heaven” and that we must “rise and go to the Father,” then not only will we be taken out of the pigsty, but we will also be forgiven by the priest who gives forgiveness in the Name of God, and then all of heaven will rejoice to see us return. For each time we go to confession, we return to the house of our Father in heaven. We tell Him we have sinned against Him, and in return, if we are truly sorry, He looks at us with love and tells us that “now we must celebrate and rejoice, because [you were] dead and [have] come to life again; [you were] lost and [have] been found.”

Please think about the questions I have posed. In the end, I hope they help draw you closer to the Lord. I hope too that they will help you prepare to make a good confession in the coming days. You know the hours — they are also in the bulletin. I hope they won’t be enough this week!

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time Sep. 22, 2019

  Readings: Am 8:4–7 • Ps 113: 1–2, 4–8 • 1 Tm 2:1–8 • Lk 16:1–13
  usccb.org/bible/readings/092219.cfm

There is pretty consistent theme in the writings of the spiritual tradition. It can basically be boiled down to this simple phrase: two ways. To explain what I mean, think back to Moses for a moment. When he was soon to die, he told the Israelites that they could either follow God and live and prosper, or not follow Him and suffer and die. More specifically, he said “See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil. . . . I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life” (Dt 30:15, 19). Two ways: life or death.

Another example can be found in the writings of the early Church. There is a document called the Didache, which is also known as the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles. This is one of the earliest Christian writings we have that is not part of the Bible. It starts off with these words: “There are two ways, one of life and one of death; but a great difference between the two ways” (Chapter 1). Even the modern poet Robert Frost knew this to be true when he said, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” With all this in mind, I would like to take a look at today’s Gospel.

Jesus, while not using the exact phrase “two ways” basically presents the same message when He says, “You cannot serve both God and mammon.” Essentially, He is saying here that either we can follow the way of God or the way of mammon. Now, if you aren’t familiar with the word, “mammon” is not a good thing. Not only is it opposed to God here, but it is a word which can wrap up all of the things of this world that keep us from God — money, power, fame, pleasure—anything which leads us down the other way, down the other path — the one which leads away from God instead of toward Him.

So, Jesus, taking up the “two ways” says basically that we cannot walk both paths. We must choose, because we cannot “serve two masters.” We cannot love God and the things of this world, at least in the same way. God must always come first. And when He does, we end up on the right way, the right path, the path which Moses called life. If, however, we choose anything — ANYTHING — above God, we become idolaters and have placed ourselves firmly on the path of death. St. John put it this way: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 Jn 2:15–17). St. Ignatius of Antioch gives a good example of living this well. As he was on his way to Rome to be martyred, he wrote ahead to the Romans and said: “Do not have Jesus Christ on your lips and the world in your hearts. . . . My earthly desires have been crucified, and there no longer burns in me the love of perishable things, but a living water speaks within me, saying: ‘Come to the Father.’” He had clearly placed mammon aside for love of God, and even death would not make him turn his back on the Father and on Christ.

Perhaps Robert Frost was on to something, then, when he said he chose the “path less traveled.” Our Lord Himself said we must do as much when He described the two paths presented to us today when He said elsewhere that we are to “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Mt 7:13–14). Like the poet, then, we cannot choose the easy path, traveled so often that it is well-paved and easily made. Rather, the Christian, the saint, must choose the hard paths in this world that keep him literally on the “straight and narrow,” so that at the end of the road he will find himself before pearly gates rather than fire and brimstone.

So how are we supposed to stay on the path of the Lord? Two things come immediately to mind. The first is obvious: we must pray, pray, pray! St. Alphonsus Liguori did not mince words in this regard. He said that “whoever prays will surely be saved. Whoever does not pray will surely be damned.” We might think that harsh, but he isn’t wrong! Prayer keeps us in contact with God, it puts us on the righteous path, and helps us direct our lives on that path and in line with God’s Will and Love for us. So how often do you pray? If it is only during Sunday Mass, dear friends, it is not enough. Now I am not saying you must spend 24/7 in the adoration chapel. Not even monks do that. But you must pray regularly and often. A few suggestions: prayers when getting up and going to bed, before and after meals, on the way to and from school or work, an evening family Rosary, a weekly visit to the Blessed Sacrament, just to name a few. You can use set prayers, make your own, read the Bible, gaze at a crucifix. There are so many ways! The important thing is to actually pray! And even to pray that we are on the right path! Consider this week, then, how often (or not) you pray, and seriously consider, individually and with your family, how you will incorporate more prayer into your daily and weekly lives.

The second thing that can help us stay on the path may literally sound morbid, but it is important. We must remember often that each of us, someday, sooner or later — each of us is going to die. We may not like thinking about that but we can’t avoid it. Whether we like it or not, some day will be our last and the path we have been on will come to an end. By remembering that we are going to die, we will live with that in mind, and we will be less likely to choose silly or even sinful things that take us away from the path of life. St. Benedict said that remembering death, or, in his words, “keeping death before our eyes daily,” is one of the “instruments of the spiritual art, which, if they have been applied without ceasing day and night and approved on judgment day, will merit for us from the Lord that reward which He has promised” (Rule, IV). Put simply, remembering death helps us to live! And that both in this life and in the next. With that in mind then, what needs to change about our lives knowing that we will die and will be judged based on what we did before death? That itself could take up many sessions of prayer this week!

My dear friends, there are two paths placed before us today. Two roads diverging in the yellow wood of this life. One leads right to heaven and life. The other down to hell and death. And once we reach the end of the road, there is no turning back. The choice is ours and our souls are on the line. With Moses, then, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life [choose God over mammon, choose the right path], that you and your descendants may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice, and clinging to him; for that means life to you and length of days” (Dt 30:18–19), and eventually, eternal life in heaven forever. Amen!

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time — Sep. 29, 2019

  Readings: Am 6:1a, 4–7 • Ps 146:7–10 • 1 Tm 6:11–16 • Lk 16:19–31
  usccb.org/bible/readings/092919.cfm

You will recall that last week the Gospel afforded us the opportunity to reflect upon the “two ways” that are given for our choosing in this life, and that, at our death, we will be given our just rewards based on how we walked that way — how we lived our lives — whether we lived for God or for the things of this world. This week, as a direct follow-up, we see the end results of those two paths. We see that the end of the road is indeed an end, but also a beginning of something new. Depending on the path, though, the results can be glorious or disastrous, and those for an eternity. Let’s look at the Gospel to get a deeper understanding of this.

Jesus tells the Pharisees today about a rich man, whom tradition has called “Dives” simply because in Latin that is the word for “rich man.” He was known for the high quality of his clothes and the lavishness of his food. Now, the Gospels would not mention such specific facts if they were not important. What a man wears and what he eats are ultimately of passing import in a story — that is unless those are the things that define the story. For Dives, these were the things — the mammon — which had taken over his life even to the point that his purple clothes and fancy meals had become more important to him than the man who was dying on his front porch.

The poor man is Lazarus, whose name means “God is my help.” The fact that our Lord mentions his name, but not the name of the rich man is important. St. Gregory the Great says this is “because God knows and approves the humble, but not the proud” (St. Thomas Aquinas, Catena aurea, Lk 16, Lecture 4). His situation is not just that of poverty, however. For Lazarus is not only poor — he is sick and dying, and is all alone. Only the dogs are there to comfort him and clean his wounds. We know, of course, that he must have often been neglected because the rich man liked food — he probably had parties, or at least food coming in and out of his house often — and yet not a single person stopped to tend to him, to bring him food, to help him. And so he died — poor, starving, sick, and alone. It would seem a sad situation, but remember, as his name suggests, God is his help! “When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham.” While he was despised in this world, the angels of heaven rejoiced to bring him help and rescue!

Soon after this, the rich man also dies. Both men came to the end of their paths — and both received their reward based on how they lived. It is clear from the Gospel: the rich man ended up in hell for ignoring those in need — even one who was right on his front porch. It wasn’t necessarily that he ate fancy food (though luxury is always an easy path to sin), but because he did nothing to help the starving man “who would gladly have eaten of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table.” Lazarus, on the other hand, who had suffered a great deal in this world, was welcomed into Paradise by none other than Abraham, our father in faith. The rich man had become the poor, for he did not even have water to quench his thirst, and his suffering was terrible in the never-ending fires of hell. The poor man had become rich, for now he rejoices in the glories and joys of heaven forever. The one chose comfort in this life and received torments in the next. The other suffered torments in this life and now has comfort in the next.

It seems backwards, perhaps, but this is the way of God. This is yet another example of how St. Luke shows the “topsy-turvy” nature of the Gospel — how he shows that God’s ways and thoughts are so far above our ways and thoughts (cf. Is 55:8–9). By our reckoning, sure Lazarus should have peace in the next life. After all, he suffered so. But should Dives really be punished forever simply for not giving food to someone? By our reckoning no, but by God’s, well, yes. Because there is more than simply not giving food to someone here. Here, there is a chasing after mammon over God, and it is shown by not loving a neighbor, even one who is dying on your porch. Here, there is absolute hatred of neighbor instead, and it leads straight to hell.

Brothers and sisters, we are not on this road to eternity alone. There are many others on the path as well and we must help each other along. When we see someone suffering the pains of this world, we as Christians must do what we can to help them, with food, drink, clothing, and the like. It cannot stop only at material help, though. We must pray for each other, especially those who suffer, even daily. Being Christian means that we show concern and care for all the poor, whether it be materially or spiritually. By doing these things, we help remind one another that “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom 8:18), and even that the sufferings of this world are worth the pain if they help us stay on the path to heaven.

This week then, I encourage you to take this Gospel to heart and prayer. Is there a way you can help the poor this week or even regularly? And remember, money is a help, yes, but don’t let that be the only thing you do. Our hearts have to be in it too. That may mean we have to sacrifice a bit to help the poor, with money, time, talents. Helping those less fortunate than us may mean we have to give up something we have or want to do. Whatever it may be, though, we cannot ignore the poor — we have to make sacrifices for the Lazarus on our door and cannot stay hidden in our trappings like Dives. For the poor are cherished by the Lord, and he hears them when they cry (cf. Ps 34:6). When we reach the end of our path, that cry will sound out against us if we did not help them, just as it did against Dives when he saw Lazarus in heaven. If we help the poor, on the other hand, we can be assured of the Lord’s help and can even hope, like Lazarus, to be carried to heaven by the angels and welcomed into heaven by those we were able to help in the Name of Christ in this life. For truly when we help someone for the sake of Jesus, we help Jesus Himself, and because of that, by seeking to help the poor in this world, we can hope to hear at the end of our lives those blessed words of Christ: “Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Mt 25:34).

We are not alone on this path. We can and must help each other on the way as we strive to heaven. And so I ask you, how will you help someone to heaven this week?

Fr. Mitchell Athanasius Brown About Fr. Mitchell Athanasius Brown

Father Mitchell Athanasius Brown was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Gallup in 2018. He is the parochial vicar at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Gallup, NM.

Comments

  1. Avatar Deacon John Mc Garry says:

    This is a beautiful homily and gives a real sense of the virtue of humility with some practical suggestions which certainly will help me and hopefully help those to whom I will be giving a homily this weekend. Thank you with every blessing

  2. Avatar Fr. Paul Htun Khine says:

    Your homily is very simple and very understandable.
    I like the simple one.
    May God bless you more and more.
    Yours sincerely in Christ!
    Paul

  3. Avatar Fr. Fernando da Costa says:

    Thank you

All comments posted at Homiletic and Pastoral Review are moderated. While vigorous debate is welcome and encouraged, please note that in the interest of maintaining a civilized and helpful level of discussion, comments containing obscene language or personal attacks—or those that are deemed by the editors to be needlessly combative and inflammatory—will not be published. Thank you.

Speak Your Mind

*