Archive for the ‘26th Sunday’ Category

The Rich Man and Lazarus 9-25-2016

Sunday, 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‚Äôs 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.”