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Homily for 26th Sunday September 26, 2010

posted Sep 27, 2010, 4:14 AM by fathermark@stmaryshuntingburg.org

26th Sunday of the Year

St. Mary's, Huntingburg

September 25-26, 2010



            This past week, Forbes magazine issued its annual list of the 400 wealthiest Americans.

To make the list, a person has to be worth at least a billion dollars ... so, all 400 of those Americans have assets worth at least one billion dollars.

At the top of the list is Bill Gates (worth 54 billion dollars), Warren Buffet (worth a mere 45 billion), and Michael Bloomberg (worth a paltry 18 billion).

Now, those 400 billionaires saw their income rise by 8% in this last year ... in the midst of the economic downturn in which so many Americans saw their income drop ... or dry up.

In fact, studies tells us that the gap between the wealthy and the poor in this country continues to grow wider.

The rich are getting richer ... and the poor are getting poorer.

And this is just the US ... not looking at the poverty of so many other nations.

            It's hard not to think of facts like this as we hear the Gospel parable today about the rich man who dressed in fine clothes and dined sumptuously ... thinking only of himself and his own comfort ... while the poor man Lazarus starved, covered with sores, basically at his feet.
Today's Gospel should give all of us pause to think about the economic system that pervades our world ... a system  in which the "stinking rich" (as one researcher categorizes the 400 most wealthy) ... the stinking rich make more and more ... while the poor, here in our own country and across the world, grow poorer and poorer.

But more, today's Gospel should make all of us think about our own use of the resources that  God has given to us ... whatever ... or however much it might be.

            But ... at another level ... a deeper level, I think ... this Gospel isn't really about money ...

We can't let ourselves "off the hook" ... evade the challenge of today's Gospel by saying "O well, I'm not rich" ... "I'm poor" ... or ... "We're not rich ... we're just "comfortable" ... This Gospel is not about me.

Because the really important fact about the rich man in the parable is not his wealth ... it's his selfishness.

This guy was only concerned about himself ... his life ... his pasttimes ... his brothers ... and not about other people beyond his "little world."

Really, this Gospel is about selfishness; it's about self-centeredness; it's about lack of concern about people beyond the little circle of those who "matter" to me personally.

That selfishness might be selfishness with money ... but it's just as likely to be selfishness with our time, with our attention, with our affection, with our forgiveness.

It's about stinginess of any ... and every ... sort.

            And then the Gospel goes on to ask question:

It's a question that's meant to smack us in the face.

And it's this:

And what would it take to wake people up? ... what would it take to wake us up? ... wake us up to our occasional ... or frequent ... or maybe even a basic attitude of self-centeredness?

            Let's see how it unfolds in the Gospel:

The rich man dies.

He's suffering torment in hell.

And he comes to realize that it's too late for him ...

So the rich man asks Abraham to send the poor man Lazarus  ... who has also died but is living now in heaven with Abraham  ... the rich man asks Abraham to send Lazarus to his brothers in order to warn them and get them to  repent before it's too late.

Maybe if his brothers saw a man risen from the dead ... their eyes would be open to the selfish, self-centered, and empty lives they were living ... and they would repent.

Now, Abraham's reply is really most interesting ...interesting for  all of us to hear:

Abraham replies to the rich man: "If they didn't listen to Moses and to the prophets (that is, if they didn't pay attention to the Scriptures), neither will they be persuaded even if someone should rise from the dead."

They won't change ... "even if someone were to rise from the dead."

            Now, the Gospel wants us to think:  Well ... someone has risen from the dead ...

Jesus of Nazareth ... the Son of God in human flesh ... he died ... and he rose from the dead ...

We all know that.

            But that's not the BIG question.

The BIG question is: So what?

Yes, we all know that Jesus died on the Cross and rose from the dead, but:

What difference does it make?

So what?

Does the Son of God's act of complete selflessness ... does his willingness to die for sinners ... does it move us to think again about our selfishness?

Does the Son of God selflessness move us to repent of our self-centeredness?

When we think of Jesus who lived and died and rose ... for others ... does it affect how we live our daily lives ...

... OR ... are we still basically living life like the rich man and his brothers ... "doin' our thing" ... the way we want ... livin' the life that we want to live  ... thinkin' mostly about ourselves and the handful of people who matter to us personally ...?

            Maybe the problem is that we know ... with our heads ... that Jesus died and rose ... but we don't really believe it with our hearts ...

Maybe we aren't so sure that we are ... each and every one of us, sinners ... sinners who can be every bit as selfish and self-centered and unconcerned about others ... as that rich man in the Gospel ... and his hell-bound brothers ...

Maybe we haven't bothered to think through what it means that the Son of God himself would lay down his very life and be raised from the dead to save sinners like you and me ...

Because ... if we know it ... if we believe it ... if we are at all grateful for his selfless concern for us ... then, we have to live it ... we have to imitate it ... we have to do it and be it.

How could we go on living in selfishness ... habitual or frequent or occasional ... how could we go one living in self-concern ...      once we have come to believe that Jesus Christ ... the Son of Living God ... has died and risen for our sakes?

            Abraham couldn't send a man back from the dead to get the brothers of that rich man to repent ... to open their eyes to see the empty ... the foolish ... the hell-directed lives that they were living ... selfish and self-centered and lacking in concern for others in need ... whatever need.

Abraham couldn't ... and the fact is that he really just didn't see the point ... those fools weren't going to change anyway ...

But God could do it.

God could raise a man from the dead.

And God did it ... because our God's not ready to give up ... in his foolish divine love, our God thinks that we can  change ... that our selfishness can become love ... that our self-centeredness can become other-directedness ... that our lack of concern for others can become a commitment to reach out to brothers and sisters in need ... whatever need.

            Abraham said: " ... neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead."

Pray Almighty God that Abraham isn't talking about  us.