Deacon Cornell's Homily


Amos 6: 1,4-7
1 Timothy 6:11-16
Luke 16:19-31


September 29-30, 2007, 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

A good parable teaches us by drawing us into a story that lets us identify with one or more of the characters. Sometimes we feel good because we identify with a character who exhibits desirable traits, such as the good shepherd or the good samaritan, and sometimes we squirm in our seats because we identify with someone who is exhibiting traits that are not so desirable, like the elder brother in the Prodigal Son, or the dishonest steward in last week's gospel.

Sometimese we don't identify easily with any of the characters and then it is harder to learn what Jesus is teaching. I would guess that not too many of us felt uncomfortable listening to today’s story of the rich man and Lazarus. In fact, I bet many of you felt the same as I did: pretty righteous that the rich man gets his comeuppance and Lazarus gets some comfort. That’s because I don’t easily identify with anyone in the story. I am not Lazarus, homeless, sick, begging at the door of some rich person. I’m not the rich man, oh no. He is one of those corrupt CEOs who make 500 times what their employees make, living life large in huge houses with fancy furniture, throwing lavish parties for other CEOs or Hollywood stars. Or is he? Jesus does not say that the rich man came by his wealth in any dishonest way. His sin is not that he is rich. The rich man’s sin is that he is oblivious to the needs of Lazarus, even though he has more than enough to satisfy both his needs and Lazarus’ needs.

Hmmm. Let’s face it, by comparison with most of the world, and even a good part of our own rich country, the people in Stow are rich. I just saw some statistics that said that if you make $30,000 a year, you make more than 93% of the people in the world. Now I am starting to get uncomfortable. Maybe I am the rich man in the story. And maybe it is not just material riches that can blind me to the poverty of those around me.

Does anyone else get the same feeling that I do when I watch the news? I get the feeling that there are so many people in the world who are hurting, the hurting poor but also the hurting rich. It has nothing to do really with material wealth. People are searching for truth, and wholeness, and consolation, and a sense of self-worth. The Gospel, the good news, is that all of those are readily available. All we have to do is "repent", which means to turn around and face God. As Catholics, have been entrusted with everything that people are dying to find: truth, wholeness, consolation, and self-worth, all of that in abundance.

Unfortunately we Christians have pulled back into our shells because of our culture's vicious and repeated attacks on religion in general and Christianity in particular. As a result the people who are so desparate for what the Gospel brings them never get a chance to hear it. Whatever the excuse, we are like the rich man in that we don't even see that people are hurting right on our door step. And instead of helping them get proper treatment for their wounds, we leave them to the licks of dogs that bring no value or healing.

There is no longer a strong Catholic culture that permeates the secular world, bringing Gospel values to the world even if we did not individually. Our faith today demands that every one of us take an active part in evangelization: bringing the Gospel message to the world we live in. This does not mean knocking on doors, or preaching on street corners.

So what are we to do? The first and most important thing we can do is exactly what we are all doing here: celebratingthe Eucharist on a regular basis, giving thanks and praise to God and being formed more fully into the body of Christ, through which the Gospel is revealed. But that is just the start. The whole purpose of the Eucharist is to initiate us more deeply into the body of Christ so we can bring that Gospel out into the world. If we just stop at going to Mass, it doesn't make sense. I would suggest that to bring the Gospel into the wold involves each of us knowing our faith more deeply.

Today's readings make it clear that those of us who are entrusted with God's wealth will be held accountable for how we use it. I would suggest that a good start is to know en0ugh about our faith to see through the misguided attacks from the likes of Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion and Christopher Hitchens' God Is Not Great. It is maybe just as important to know it well enough to see how so many fundamental Christian arguments are also severely flawed. So go home today and read C. S. Lewis' Mere Christianity or The Great Divorce. Get Frank Collins' (who heads up the US Governments Human Genome project) The Language of God.

And most importantly, participate in our Generations of Faith program, and think about forming a small faith group with a few other families or friends to deepen your faith that way.

So in the words of Paul, people of God, pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. Compete well for the faith. Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called when you made the noble confession in the presence of many witnesses. And then go share the wealth.

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