The Rich Man and Lazarus 9-25-2016

September 25th, 2016

Our TV remote controls are very interesting contraptions. If you do not like something on TV, you just click it off. You might be tempted to click off this gospel and possibly my homily. Put the remote down for just a few minutes and please listen. In 1950, a committee representing 17 different nations voted Albert Schweitzer, “The Man of the Century.” Three years later, in 1953, Schweitzer was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Schweitzer has been acclaimed the world over as a genius. He was an outstanding philosopher, a theologian, a respected historian, a concert soloist, and a missionary doctor. But the most remarkable thing about him was his deep Christian faith. It was a faith that influenced even the smallest details of his life. At the age of 21, Schweitzer promised himself that he would enjoy art and science until he was 30. Then he would devote the rest of his life to working among the needy in some direct form of service.
And so on his 30th birthday, on October 13, 1905 Albert Schweitzer dropped several letters into a Paris mailbox. They were to his parents and closest friends, informing them that he was going to enroll in the university to get a degree in medicine. After that he was going to Africa to work among the poor as a missionary doctor. The letters created an immediate stir. He says in his book, Out Of My Life and Thought: “My relatives and friends all joined in to rebuke me on the folly of my enterprise. I was a man, they said, who was burying the talent entrusted to him. A lady who was filled with the modern spirit proved to me that I could do much more by lecturing on behalf of medical help for the natives, than I could by the action I contemplated.” Nevertheless, Schweitzer stuck to his guns. At the age of 38, he became a full fledged medical doctor. At the age of 43, he left for Africa where he opened a hospital on the edge of the jungle; he died there in 1965 at the age of 90. What motivated Albert Schweitzer to turn his back on worldly fame and wealth and work amongst the poorest of the poor in Africa? He said that one of the influences was his meditation on today’s Gospel about the rich man and Lazarus. Schweitzer said: “It struck me as incomprehensible that I should be allowed to live such a happy life, while so many people around me were wrestling with suffering.”
And that brings us to the Gospel story itself. The sin of the rich man was simply that he never noticed Lazarus. He accepted Lazarus as part of the landscape of life. The sin of the rich man was not a sin of commission, which is doing something he should not have done. The sin of the rich man was a sin of omission, which is not doing something he should have done. The sin of the rich man was basking in his own personal wealth and not lifting a finger to help Lazarus in his dire need. The sin of the rich man was the same sin that is being committed over and over today. And it is this sin that is beginning to cause grave concern not only because of what it is doing to the poor but also because of what it is doing to society. John F. Kennedy referred to this concern when he said, “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.” In other words, our lack of concern for the poor is destroying not only the poor but also the very moral fabric of our society.
The Gospel today is an invitation to us as individuals and as a parish, to meditate on the story of the rich man and Lazarus and to ask ourselves the same question that Schweitzer asked himself: How can we live a happy life while so many other people are suffering? As we reflect this week, let us close with these words of Pope John Paul II. He delivered them during his first visit to the United States in a homily at Yankee stadium in New York on October 2, 1979:
“In the light of the parable of Christ, riches and freedom mean a special responsibility. Riches and freedom create a special obligation. And so, in the name of the solidarity that binds us together in a common humanity, I again proclaim the dignity of every human person. The rich man and Lazarus are both human beings. Both of them equally created in the image and likeness of God. Both of them equally redeemed by Christ at a great price. The poor of the United States and of the world are your brothers and sisters in Christ. You must never be content to leave them just the crumbs of the feast. You must take of your substance, and not just of your abundance, in order to help them. And you must treat them like guests at your family table.”

We are only Passing Through 9-18-2016

September 18th, 2016

After many years and several thousand miles, Dad traded in the family station wagon for his dream car – a sleek, silver sedan.
He immediately laid down strict rules for the car. He would carefully monitor its use. No more joyriding to the beach or leisurely drives to the mountains. Trips to the corner market could be made on bicycle or on foot.
There would be absolutely no eating anything in the new car. Trips for ice cream and fall “tailgate” parties were history.
And this car was not going to be used like a truck as the old wagon was: there would have to be another way to haul new trees and flowers for the yard, shuttle the kids to their activities, move the older ones into their dorms in September.
And the child who accidentally spilled her coke on the bumper will never ever do that again!
Every weekend now Dad spends hours washing, waxing, and detailing his pride and joy. He faithfully sees to the oil and maintenance. He never takes the car out of the garage in the rain or snow, terrified that salt should start to eat the paint or that mud should destroy the interior.
Yes, Dad finally owns his dream car. But the other family members miss the old wagon and the happy times it made possible – and they begin to wonder: Does the dream car own Dad?
In our gospel today Jesus warns all of us, his followers, about the dangers of money and possessions. Notice he does not say that money and possessions are bad, they can be very good things if used properly.
The serious warning has to do with this: We can become so obsessed with the pursuit of wealth and the manipulation of power that we seem to give up a piece of our humanity in the process.
As computer printouts and balance sheets become the center of our existence, we unconsciously push the people and relationships dearest to us into the margins of our lives.
Our scripture reminds us that one has to be concerned about money, our possessions. But a thin line divides concern and being controlled. You have heard that old saying, “Money is the root of all evil,” and everyone thinks it comes from the bible. It does not! 1Tm 6:10 is one of the most misquoted passages in the whole bible. It doesn’t read, “Money is the root of all evil,” it reads, “The love of money is the root of all evil.”
I would like to give you a little bit of homework for the week. I would like you to think/pray about/discuss these three questions:
1. How much does the love of money play a part in our life?
2. How can we use our money, talents and time to help God’s work?
3. Name some valuables in our life that money can not buy?
I close with this: In the last century, a tourist form America paid a visit to a renowned Polish rabbi, Hofetz Chaim. He was astonished to see that the rabbi’s house was only a simple room filled with books, plus a table and a bench. “Rabbi,” asked the tourist, “where is your furniture?” “Where is yours?” replied the rabbi. “Mine?” asked the puzzled American, “but I am only a visitor here. I’m only passing through.” The rabbi said, “So am I. So am I.”
Do our possessions own us, does the dream car own Dad? I hope not. Remember, we are all only passing through!

Be A Stand In For God 9-11-2016

September 11th, 2016

If an alien was to walk in to our church today and say, “Ok you Church people, describe God to me.”
I wonder what our answer would be. I believe one of the most powerful descriptions of God is contained in the 2 stories we just heard in Luke’s Gospel.
A. These images of God, too many people, don’t make any sense. When the sinner is found. Mercy, love and forgiveness are freely offered. No charge; no strings attached; no, “I told you so;” no finger pointing. Just, “Welcome Home.”
B. No matter how far we wander or stray from God, and we all do it at times, no matter how terrible our sins might be, God’s arms are always open to us. Jesus never approves of the sin, but he always embraces the sinner.
C. I could just hear a few of the people, when Jesus was telling his stories, making a few side comments like:
i. These stories are crazy!
ii. This God is ridiculous!
iii. Leave 99 good sheep to go after one stupid stray?
iv. That’s not very good business sense.
v. If I were the father I would stick it to that son.
vi. I would make him crawl back.
vii. This God doesn’t make any sense.
These people were right; our God doesn’t make any sense when it comes to loving us.
D. A final point, very important, comes from a quote by the director of Covenant House, a shelter for runaway kids in many large cities in the U.S. She says, “The kids we work with have a lot of questions…
‘Can I have something to eat? I haven’t had a good thing to eat in days,’ a 17-year-old boy asked me last night. ‘Can I sleep here? Where can I sleep?’ another kid asked an hour later. I think she may have been twelve. These questions come easy to them. They are the questions that a street kid asks every day, minute to minute. But what gets to me is the question they don’t ask. The one that hides deep in the eyes they turn away from you, the one that shows in nervous fingers. This is the question that comes from living a lifetime of days when you can’t seem to do anything right. It is, ‘Does God still love me? – Will God forgive me?’ The kids would never say that out loud. Very few of them ever talk about God. They don’t know enough yet, and their minds and mouths are too preoccupied with the other questions: ‘Is it safe here?’ ‘Can I have something to eat?’ ‘Where can I sleep?’ But their hearts have only one question: ‘Does God still love me? – Will God forgive me?’ And their hearts look to me and to other adults at Covenant House for the answer to that question. I don’t think the kids think much about the theological idea that God lives in every one of us. With them it’s more instinctive. All I know is that when they look at me and I see that question, I feel the incredible burden of standing in for our Lord. And I know our Lord is counting on me to say, ‘Yes! Heavens, yes! I love you!’ to those scraggly, hungry, angry children of the streets.”
I Close:
God is counting on all of us to be “Stand In’s” for the Lord, with each other. To make real Isaiah 55:7, “Turn to the Lord for mercy; to our God, who is generous in forgiving.”