| Amos 6: 1, 4-7 | 1 Timothy 6: 11-16 | Luke 16: 19-31 | 26 Ordinary C ‘13 |
Scripture Readings: Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Print PDF: Weekly Homily 09.29.2013
When John XXIII gathered the bishops of the world for the II Vatican Council, he called the church to wake up and see the world as it is, not as it was. He used the word “aggiornamento.” “Aggiornamento” means to awaken spiritually; to allow God’s energy to emerge in the world. In retrospect we know that is no easy task. Some within our household of faith walked away from our common Table. Many remain, convinced we cannot go back. Our common lot is confusion and frustration. That is because waking up is only the first step.
Luke alone attributes the story of the rich man and Lazarus to Jesus. The tale needs little interpretation. It does not provide a rule of life for us but it is foundational to our Catholic social teaching. It is a cautionary tale that compels us to look at unjust social structures of our own time.
There are two characters in the story: the nameless rich man and a beggar named Lazarus. The rich man is comfortable and secure with enough to live on and a little left over. There is nothing wrong with enjoying a comfortable life. Most of us do! The rich man is not portrayed as a bad man, nor is he violent or abusive in any way. So his problem was not his wealth.
His problem is that he fails to notice the poor man in his misery and spent his wealth on himself. He seems oblivious to the poverty that stunts potential, suffocates hope, and engenders feelings of inferiority and resentment. The story challenges us to notice need in others and respond.
What is a normal, adequate way for people to live? What is a normal or average lifestyle? The answer to such questions depends on various factors. I leave such questions for you to answer.
Seven plus billion of us now live on this planet. Many, like the Syrians seeking security and safety in Jordan, struggle to exist in crowded refugee camps. Even in nations where political and economic life is stable, the majority of folks live in one or two room adobe homes with dirt floors and a little patch of land on which they cultivate food to sustain them. Electricity and clean water are scarce.
We are among a minority on this planet who are very secure and safe. Our lifestyle is an unearned blessing. It is not something owed to us. So the misery, hardship and inhuman conditions of life among our brothers and sisters challenge our priorities, comfort and contentment.
Here is a true story that I find inspiring. Catherine de Hueck Doherty was born in Russia of titled parents. Her father was a diplomat. When she was nine years of age, her parents were hosting a very formal and grand tea party for other diplomats and dignitaries. In the middle of it all, the butler walked into the room and said to her father, “Christ is at the door.” In spite of the murmurings of surprise among their guests, her parents excused themselves and went out to welcome a beggar.
Though they had fourteen servants in the house, her parents set about serving the beggar. They put a fine linen cloth on the table with their best silver and china. Catherine was fascinated and volunteered to help. Her mother said, “Oh no. You were not obedient last week. You cannot serve Christ unless you are obedient.”
On that day she learned that “to serve the poor was a great honor and a great joy.” As an adult she campaigned constantly for social justice. She dedicated her life to provide food, shelter and other support for those struggling to eke out an existence. She died in 1985.
John XXIII recognized that conventional, comforting Christianity has failed! It does not work! Through the II Vatican Council he called all of us to “aggiornamento” – to awaken spiritually and communicate God’s love to our world. We hear the same call in this gospel text.