Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Book of the Prophet Amos 6:1a, 4-7
Psalm 146:7; 8-9; 9-10
1 Timothy 6:11-16
The Gospel of Luke 16:19-31
Deacon Mike D’Addabbo
St. Louis Catholic Church
Sept. 25, 2022
Today’s gospel points out the curse of being rich for some people- in this case the rich man who dressed like a king, had servants. He lived and ate well by human standards. By Gods standards he was not doing nearly as well. The scary thing is that for a man so rich he had no idea that he was living a lifestyle that would ultimately result in an eternal life in pain and suffering. He thought life was great. Riches cannot cure everything. I know someone who was very successful in life, but he thought that his success was the result of just his efforts. He did not recognize that the talents that made him successful were gifts from God. He multiplied those talents, as God instructs us to do, but did not recognize their origin and so he did not give thanks to God. He could have given thanks with simple words prayed in private or, even better, with quiet works of charity for others. Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church do not tell us to be poor. In fact, the opposite. We are told to take the talents given to us by God and to work with them and multiply them. If that makes us rich fine. We are called to put the results of our talents to work for God. If we are poor, then we have to rely on the generosity of others. God does not want that either. It is what we do with our talents that matters. Our words and actions will be the determining factors on how we spend our life after death. In torment and suffering? Or in the hands of God?
Today’s Gospel points out the stark reality of being rich and ignoring the poor. How often did the rich man see Lazarus lying by the gate and not offer him food or clothing or shelter? Did the rich man actually see Lazarus lying there? Or, at some point, did he become so used to Lazarus being there that it ceased being a nuisance and he just continued to ignore him? Do we see the homeless on the streets of Memphis? Do we avoid them? I am not suggesting that you get out of your cars or even roll down your window to give a gift of money etc. Unfortunately. it seems too dangerous to do that kind of thing today but there are other ways that we can put those talents God gave us to work. Doing so will get us on our way to what we desire the most. We all know that this life is temporary and that it is our eternal life in heaven that we desire. God wants us to join Him there but he complicated things for us by giving us free will. He gave us the choice of whether or not we decide to live our lives following His teachings. If we choose wrong that is our decision just like it was the rich man’s decision in today’s Gospel. And, just like the rich man in today’s gospel, we will face the same fate. And that is not what we want. That fate is eternal. No do-overs or mulligans.
Saint Teresa of Calcutta is best known for her work with the poorest of the poor and the sickest of the sick in India. She admitted that at times she was afraid, yet she kept going back. She had the ability that we all wish we had- she saw the face of Jesus in everyone she met. We think of her and the work she did in Calcutta and her Missionaries of Charity orders around the world and the work they do to help others. Mother Teresa was here in Memphis quite a number of years ago. A friend of mine met her and asked her what he could do to help her. She replied, “Take care of the poor in Memphis.” She knew- from her life- that there are those in need everywhere. WE just HAVE TO SEE THEM. And that is what the rich man in today’s gospel did not do. It is possible that he did not see the needs of Lazarus. Or maybe he chose- or did not feel the need- to help him. I do not know which is worse- to not see the needs of someone or to not see how he could help him.
The parable tells us how after living a life of wealth and in comfort the rich man dies. Lazarus is also dead, but their fortunes have been reversed. The rich man is now suffering in hell. Lazarus was carried to Abraham’s bosom by angels and that is where the rich man sees him. So, the rich man asks Abraham to have Lazarus dip his fingers in water and touch his tongue to cool it and relieve some of the suffering. A seemingly simple request from a man in need who, in his own lifetime, did not see the need of others or offer to help those in need. He also did not see the canyon of space between where he was and where Lazarus was. A large separation deliberately intended to keep either side from going to the other. Abraham explains to the rich man that he cannot do as the rich man requests. He tells the rich man that he has already received his reward during his lifetime on earth. Lazarus suffered during his lifetime, and so now he receives his reward. We do not enjoy any earthly rewards after we die. The rich man has just learned that his priorities were messed up and that he will now suffer for eternity. Lazarus, in the meantime, suffered in a temporary way on earth so that now he enjoys the reward of comfort for eternity. We are not aware that Lazarus made a conscious decision that resulted him in being poor or covered with sores. We are aware that the rich man chose to live his earthly life in creature comforts and did not seek to help the poor man lying by his door. And it was that blindness to the needs of others that sealed his fate. Once we die there is no reversing of the past.
Now the rich man, upon realizing that his suffering was going to be forever, asks Abraham to please warn his brothers so that they change their ways before it is too late, and they can avoid suffering in eternity. Abraham responds saying that if the rich man’s brothers will not listen to the words of Moses and the prophets then neither would they listen to anyone who would rise and speak to them from the dead. Today we are all the rich man’s brothers. Today we listened to some of the words of Moses and the prophets- in this case the first reading from the Book of the Prophet Amos. Do we really listen to the words that we hear in the readings and Gospel at Mass? Are we putting them into action? Are we living the Gospel? Or are we the rich man who is blind to the needs of others? There are lots of opportunities in this parish, diocese, town, and world to help others. I am not going to list all the ministries that are here to help others, but they are here. If you are called- or even think you are being called- to do something but don’t know exactly what- well, we have something for you. Just ask. This ministerial work is not the exclusive purview of Priests, deacons and religious. It is the purview of those who want to live the Gospel through their lives.
I want to close with this. Sunset this Sunday commences Rosh Hashanah which celebrates the Jewish New Year and begins a ten-day period of introspection, their examination of conscience and atonement for sins. Sounds like a 10- day confession. What if the rich man had listened to the words of Moses and the prophets? His outcome may have been totally different than what he experienced. We are blessed to have the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We do not have to wait annually for Rosh Hashanah in order to ask God for forgiveness and to get back on the path for eternal reward. We need to stay on that path if we do not want the same fate as the rich man.
God Bless you