Life on the Chrism Trail

Homily for the Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 24, 2022
St. Mary Catholic Church
Graham, Texas

Amos 6:1a, 4-7
Psalm 146:7,8-9, 9-10
I Timothy 6:11-16
Luke 16:19-31

Last Sunday we heard the prophet Amos denounce injustice, and today he goes after people who live in luxury and are oblivious to the poverty and need of their neighbors. This is the situation in the parable today about the nameless rich man and Lazarus.

In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus tells the parable of the rich man and poor Lazarus. The former lives in luxury, hedonism, and narcissism. When he dies, he will go to hell. The poor man on the contrary eats the food left over from the table of the rich man, and Jesus promises that at his death he will be brought by angels to his eternal dwelling place with God and the saints.

The message of the parable is even more profound. It reminds us that while we are in this world, we must listen to the Lord who speaks through the Sacred Scriptures and to live according to His will and not our own will, otherwise after death it will be too late for us to repent. This parable teaches us two lessons: the first is that God loves the poor and comforts their humiliation and He loves us in our poverty and neediness; the second is that our eternal destiny is conditioned by our willingness to be of service and love, – it is up to us to follow the path that God has laid out for us in order to attain life and this path is love, the way of the Cross. This love is not intended as an emotion but as service to others for the love of Christ.

The rich man seems to take little notice of Lazarus until he sees him after death in heaven with Abraham. Despite his request for help, nothing can be done because of the chasm separating Lazarus and the rich man. The rich man has understood wrongly that the highest good of life is to acquire an opulent lifestyle.

Those who are rich and self-sufficient have chosen a path where they act as if they do not need God and therefore are willingly deaf and indifferent to the cries of the poor. If we are wise, we ask ourselves how we might be like the rich man of the parable. Is there a divide between us and the Lazarus of the world? Are we guilty of the crimes that angered Amos: self-indulgence, frivolous distractions, willful ignorance, and thoughtless neglect of the needy? Do we close our minds to things that challenge our way of life?

On the national and global scale, we can easily see the abyss between rich and poor: lavishly rewarded entertainers and professional athletes vs. the homeless and those on welfare; failed CEOs getting golden parachutes while their employees are laid off; corporations exploiting workers in their factories in third world nations. However, the parable directs our attention not to the national and global scene, but to ourselves.

We spend a lot of time trying to increase our wealth, which primarily means making money. But wealth can also include honor, attention, control. Like the rich man of the parable, we get caught and trapped in our own concerns and interests. Our lives become so centered on ourselves that we cannot reach out and others cannot get in. Perhaps this is the great abyss, and the way out is realizing that we cannot be disciples of the Lord without others to whom we can offer our lives.

So, we examine again our consciences to discover if there is an abyss between what we consider important and what is truly important in God’s plan of salvation. Is money, power, and control what we value? Or are we aware that the only true wealth we have is what we can offer to God and to others?

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