Archive for September, 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
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
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.”

Be A Stand In For God 9-15-2019

Sunday, September 15th, 2019

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.”

Pedal 9-8-2019

Sunday, September 8th, 2019

When we start talking about being disciples of Jesus we usually
hear stories about super stars. Some time ago the Christopher News
Notes carried three stories of three regular people, each answering the
call of discipleship.
The first story concerned a youth minister in California. He built
an extra hour or two into his weekly shopping schedule to talk with his
young flock at the town’s mall. When asked about his “mall ministry,”
the youth minister said:
“Jesus went where the people were, and that’s where I must go,
too. The kids are at the mall, so that’s where I must go.”
The second story concerned a woman in Minneapolis. She ran a
downtown shelter for the city’s homeless and abandoned. When asked
about her “shelter ministry,” she said:
“I’m simply trying to do what Jesus said to do. He said we should
love everyone, especially those most in need.”
The third and final story concerned a group of Harvard law
students who were getting ready to graduate. To court them a group of
the nation’s most prestigious law firms invited the students to a lavish
banquet in a plush downtown hotel.
After receiving the invitation, the students made this request to the
law firms: “Could you hold the banquet in a more modest hotel and
serve a more modest meal?”
When asked about this unusual request, the students simply said,
“We’d like the money saved to be given to the poor.”
These three stories illustrate the first point that Jesus makes in
today’s gospel. He says:
“If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife
and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be
my disciple.”
These words are not to be taken literally yet these words of Jesus
are a provocative way of saying three things:
1. That our priority in life must be to Jesus and to his work of
completing God’s kingdom on earth.
2. That as followers of Jesus, our responsibility extends beyond
our flesh-and-blood family to the entire human family.
3. That if we want to follow Jesus, we must follow him not only
into church on Sunday morning but also into the marketplace of
our lives on Monday morning.
They are people who realize that they are going to make only a
microscopic dent in the problems of our world. But they are also
people who realize that the worse evil is to do nothing because they
can only do little. They are people who have committed themselves
to Jesus and to his work, and are living it out.
They are people whose commitment makes us ask ourselves,
1. What are the top three priorities in my life right now and are
they in the right order?
2. What am I doing for Jesus right now?
Let’s close with a poem. Perhaps you are familiar with it. It sums
up the message and the invitation of today’s liturgy. It compares our
commitment to Jesus and to his work to two people riding on a
tandem bicycle. The poem goes something like this “At first, I sat in front; Jesus in the rear. I couldn’t see him, but I
knew he was there. I could feel his help when the road got steep.
“Then, one day, Jesus changed seats with me. Suddenly
everything went topsy-turvy. When I was in control, the ride was
predictable – even boring. But when Jesus took over, it got wild! I
could hardly hold on. ‘This is madness!’ I cried out. But Jesus just
smiled – and said, ‘Pedal!’
“And so I learned to shut up and pedal – and trust my bike
companion. Oh, there are still times when I get scared and I’m ready
to give up. But then Jesus turns around, touches my hand, smiles, and
says, ‘Pedal!’”
I’m so blessed that over these past 40 years I have done some
pedaling with so many of you.