The Gospel Reading for the 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle C for the Roman Catholic Lectionary is found in the Gospel of Luke 16:19-31.
In my media market area a person can’t escape the commercials for a certain mortgage firm when you watch or listen to St. Louis Cardinal baseball games. In a high pitch nasally male voice the audience is prompted to call a phone number that ends in 99–99. Interest rates may go up any time! This is a once in a life-time offer so don’t delay before you regret missing this opportunity! The time is now! Re-finance your loan!
That urgency of taking action “now!” is the essence of the Gospel message this Sunday. The time is now! Don’t miss your opportunity for salvation! Tomorrow you may be dead and it will be too late. Our fate is cast in this world by how you respond to the poor here and now. When you see someone in need don’t pass up the opportunity to get your hands dirty and to give hands on assistance. Salvation doesn’t come because of membership in a church or strict adherence to a set of doctrines for salvation is acceptance of the Gospel dictate to sacrifice self for the sake of others.
Pope Francis has been reminding us in his word and personal style of living as Pope that we are to be a poor church focused on taking care of the poor in our midst, at our door step. He lives in a hotel room (like many homeless people) at the Casa Santa Marta instead of the fancy apartment popes usually live in. The Pope refused to wear the expensive red ermine trimmed shoulder cape opting for just the white cassock when he appeared at the window the night of his election. He washed the feet of prisoners instead of priests on Holy Thursday. Constantly Francis is talking about being aware of the poor, serving the needy, welcoming refugees instead of spending a lot of time telling the world its morals are bad.
I can hear a few people say, “But Fr. Joe, we’re not rich. We don’t ignore the poor, we give to the local food pantry and our sister parish in Guatemala.” These are good things. The Gospel challenges us to go further. Maybe we are not directly intending to ignore those in need, there’s not a lot of beggars laying at our front doors that we have to step over to get into our home. Yes, we don’t ignore the poor directly or intentionally. The rich guy in the gospel in a sense “DOESN’T SEE” poor Lazarus at his door. He chooses to not see the man looking the other way. We may not see how our actions affect the larger human community that includes people trying to live without basic necessities of life. When we insist on the cheapest goods we can buy at a big box store we might not aware that we could be depriving a child or woman a living wage in a third world country, for example. It’s not deliberate ignorance of or willfully looking the other way but our ability to purchase things like the rich man of the story was able to may be contributing to an unjust living situation for another human being.
What is needed is a conversion of heart and thinking. We need to SEE the economic and social systems we’re a pert of from another perspective, the perspective of those who are not fortunate enough to have what we have. Even in death, the rich man still hadn’t experienced conversion of heart that could have saved him the torment of his situation. He was still wanting to benefit from the beggar Lazarus’ labor. “Send Lazarus to me with water so I will feel better, make him serve my needs while I don’t do anything for the other.” It’s a warning to us, be converted to a new way of living on this earth or suffer the consequences for eternity. Not an easy message to hear, but someone once said that Jesus came to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.
I will wrap this up with another sale’s pitch based on the stereotypical car salesman. “What’s it gonna take to get you into this beauty of salvation?” But why should we need a sales pitch? Jesus has already shown us the way and offered us the deal of an eternal life time. Don’t miss this opportunity to change your heart!