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Making ‘Lazarus’ a friend for life

Homily for 26th Sunday in Ordinary time year C 2013

The-parable-of-LazarusIn the gospel last Sunday, we heard of Jesus inviting us to make use of our money to make friends who would help us secure not only for our immediate  future but really for eternal life. In today’s gospel, Jesus tells us of a parable which brings out the message that we can find this kind of friend just by looking outside our gates-that is outside our comfort zones. This is one point of Jesus in telling us the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in our gospel today. But finding this sort of a friend, or in the case of the gospel today, making a ‘beggar, a poor man, a Lazarus, covered with sores and being licked by dogs’ is easier said than done.

It is easier said than done because there are many things that could hinder us or hold us back.

One thing that hinders us is indifference. Honestly, we can play indifferent to the situation around us. Truly, we can play naïve towards the ‘Lazarus’ lying in our gates, begging, and needing our help, not just food or money but support, encouragement and listening ears. But no, to be truly a Christian, we need to counteract this attitude of indifference by focusing less on ourselves and more on the needs of the modern-day ‘Lazarus’ lying outside our windows and our gates. This is one point that Jesus tells us in the parable- that for us to be pleasing to God, we must learn to share the riches we have to others especially to the needy. We need to understand too that it doesn’t mean Jesus doesn’t like rich people. He does. In his life, he had some associations with them. To name a few we have Zacchaeus (Lk 19:1-10), Matthew- a tax collector whom he called to be one of his disciples (Mt 9:9-13), and some well-off women too like “Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means” (Lk 8:3). Even in his death a rich man called Joseph from Arimathea helped Mary organized for his burial (Mt 27:57-60.) What Jesus doesn’t like in the rich people is the way they use all their resources and wealth only for themselves, for their own self-gratification and not using them to help others in their needs. So for him Christian life  it is not just a matter of not doing anything bad to people, but more so of doing good for all. Jesus wants us to learn the lesson on what indifference can do to us. We need to see the ill-effect of an indifferent attitude of the rich man in the parable today. He could see Lazarus at his gate day by day. He could see how miserable he was. But even then, that didn’t move him to lift him up. He continued feasting everyday for himself while leaving Lazarus starving or living out of the scraps that fell from his table. Lazarus experienced a miserable life because of the rich man who didn’t do anything to  uplift his situation. Edmund Burke, an Irish orator, philosopher, & politician (1729 – 1797)  is certainly right when he once said: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

To combat indifference, is to listen to ‘Moses and the prophet’ today. ‘Moses and the prophet’ means the scriptures. This means we need to read, and listen to the Scriptures daily especially the gospels because it is a great witness for us, a wonderful testimony for us on how God overruled the power of indifference and transformed it into the power of love, the love that is willing to die for the beloved. If Christ played indifferent to our sins, as if he  didn’t care, there would be no salvation for us.

Another way to combat indifference is to look beyond what we have now. Our bank security or insurance can’t be our insurance to heaven. We can’t take them with us when we die. So if we come to terms with this truth of our humanity, we don’t hold our resources only for ourselves, but we use them to assist others in their needs. In this way we are developing in ourselves the attitude of longing and craving for heaven, that longing for eternal life. St Therese of the Child Jesus could help us develop this attitude by listening to her words: ‘I will spend my heaven doing good on earth.’

The other hurdle we need to overcome is arrogance. This is one thing that Prophet Amos preached against the wealthy people of Judah and Israel in our First Reading today. They’ve got wealth and ‘lying on ivory beds’ but they didn’t care for the plight of the poor. These are the people, or these can be ourselves too, who sometimes say: ‘I have worked so hard for this, I deserve this. So you must work hard for it too.’ This is just a display of arrogance, claiming all the credit to all the good things to ourselves, but when things turned sour, we blamed God.

To kill off arrogance in us is to acknowledge daily, that everything we received, everything we have, and all that we are, are not our own making. It is God who blessed us all these without us even asking about it. So there is no reason for arrogance. In fact this calls us to humility.

To combat arrogance is to humble ourselves, and yet we must do the best we can. We can do this by keeping it in our hearts the words of St Paul in our Second Reading today: ‘We must fight the good fight of the faith. We are to make this our aim in life to be saintly and religious, filled with faith and love, patient and gentle.’

‘Lazarus’ is lying outsides the gates of Australia today. The Assylum seekers, the refugees, the victims of war and violence, the homeless. Let us pray that as a nation, we stop playing indifferent to the plight of the many images of Lazarus around us today and that we may tackle our arrogance by doing something for the poor using our own resources, wealth, and abilities.

I leave you with a quote from Eugene Bell Jr and it is a challenge for all of us: “Aspire to Inspire before you Expire!”

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