September 29, 2019 Twenty Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time Homily

It is no sin to be rich, even though Jesus did say that the rich would have a harder time getting into heaven than the rest of us would. But there’s no virtue in being poor either, even if Jesus once did call the poor “blessed.”

Today’s Gospel story helps to explain Jesus’ point of view and illustrates by way of a very concrete example just how riches can be a hazard to entrance into the Father’s kingdom.

Two men are presented to us in the Gospel story today. One is a nameless rich man who, we are told, dressed luxuriously in the most expensive cloths known at that time and feasted splendidly; eating mostly by himself in egoistic way, the other is Lazarus, a poor beggar, who sat by the gate of the rich man’s home every day almost naked, hungry and sick, hoping for leftovers from the table.

The story says nothing about the rich man mistreating or abusing Lazarus. The implication, however, is that his offense, his sin, was failing to do the poor man some good. Enveloped in his own luxury, he was at best unaware of Lazarus sitting at his gate, or at worst, unmoved by his sorry plight.

The reason as to why dogs were hanging around the table is because when the guests were invited to a feast, they would use bread to wipe their plates or their hands and then toss it under the table. Naturally, this would draw the dogs who would clean up the floor by eating what had been dropped from the table. This is the food that Lazarus longed to have so he could survive.

We need to understand the word “rich” as it applies to what we rely upon. What do we trust in, and upon what (or whom) we place our faith in?

It is God or something else? Do we even thing about God on daily basis, do we do our business thinking of God and others. Do we give God and others room in our lives, our work and our leisure time. Or do we just focus only on ourselves? In this regard we must always realize that this world’s symbols of success are not signs of salvation or of God’s favor upon us.

Too many have not yet arrived at the realization that they have come to be like the rich man in today’s Gospel. He was self-satisfied, smug, and complacent because he enjoyed material success in this world’s goods. Being so self-absorbed, he forgot his eternity, he was also unconcerned about others even his brothers, unaware of the beggar at his front gate.

The sin of the rich man was the sin of omission – failing to respond to human tragedy when he could have made a difference. He remained uninvolved, he did not care, it did not cross his mind. His words would have been, “it’s no concern of mine.”

But notice the change that comes over the rich man when he dies. Now he’s in torment, and his suffering seems to humanize him a bit. But at first he is thinking about himself again he is suffering he is thirsty. He is told that he cannot get any relief for his suffering. Now he makes a plea on behalf of his five brothers: Now he remembers that he has brothers! “send Lazarus to warn them…” looks like he did not do much for his brothers during his life time on earth either. All of a sudden he knows his brothers and is concerned about them, he knows who Lazarus is and his interest is no longer limited to himself. “send Lazarus to warn them so that they can repent and not wind up here also.”

What he wants his brothers to repent of?

Presumably of a similar lack of concern or compassion or interest toward God and the less fortunate who surround them in their daily life.

Our Catholic faith teaches us that there are two ways in which we can fall off the wagon – so to speak – on our pilgrimage through life.

One is by the deliberate, conscious and willful choices we make to do harm, cause injury, inflict pain by word or thought or action.

The other is more subtle, more hidden perhaps, more damaging in the long run – and that is the failure to do something positive where the opportunity presents itself. That we can and should develop relationship with God with others including our brothers and sisters and show concern about their well being even the spiritual one. It’s what Jesus often made reference to when he spoke to us about feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick. The failure to do these things is not something neutral, it is truly something negative.

You and I are part of the Gospel story today. The rich man asked Abraham to show miracles to change his brothers life perspective, but even miracles are not enough to change somebody’s behavior or make him believe. We know from our own experience that Jesus performed many miracles during his life and did not change everybody. Even today Jesus is performing miracles if we have open eyes to see them. Jesus give us opportunity to impact peoples life in spiritual or material ways, if we have open eyes. He is giving us his Body and Blood  in the Eucharistic miracle for those who believe and we know that some people are not even here to experience it.

We are the five brothers of the rich man who, through this Gospel passage, has himself come to us today from the dead, to remind us of the lesson he learned too late.

The moments – brief or lengthy – of our own personal deprivation or pain or want hopefully will serve the good purpose of making us more compassionate than the rich man was and, therefore, more alert and responsive to the deprivations and pains and needs of others around us.

The question asked of God way back at the beginning of the Bible is answered once more today in Jesus’ story, “Yes, you are your brother’s keeper, and your sister’s and your neighbor’s.”