Posts Tagged ‘9-29-2019’

The Rich Man and Lazarus 9-29-2019

Sunday, September 29th, 2019

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.”