Homily by Fr. Paul Plante
26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 26, 2010
Scriptural Reference: Luke 16:19-31
I have a hard time imagining any one of us listening to Jesus’ story about the rich man and Lazarus, and not being affected by it. It might be indignation towards the rich man who won’t even share the crumbs from his banquet table with one who has nothing to eat, one who is not insisting on sitting at the table with the guests mind you, but would be satisfied with left-overs. But no one is thoughtful enough to give him even the crumbs that no one else would want.
We might wonder how real the punishment for such greed really is … Will there be a time when those who refused to feed the hungry will face consequences that will last forever? However, that might be played out, there is good reason not only to listen to what Jesus is saying and make sure we are in the right camp.
Could we think that since the reward for misery in this life is so great in the next, why should we even work at changing the lot of the poor? Could we conclude that all riches, all possessions, all comforts in this life are bad and as such endanger our possibility of being happy in eternity?
This type of story, told by Jesus is for me a call to action. That believing is not just agreeing with Jesus in my mind, it is also in waking up and living up to these beliefs, in concrete action!
It is elsewhere in the Gospels that we are told what the reward of the rich man would have been if he had paid attention to the hungry man. Even a cup of water given in Jesus’ name will not go without a reward.
It does not say that the rich man chased the poor man away. It would seem more as though he completely ignored him. When we completely ignore those who are suffering, we spare our consciences from the guilt that could come from openly refusing, but the poor still suffer as we celebrate. The rich man would seem to want to get himself off the hook by reminding Abraham that he has brothers, living the same way and that a warning from above would certainly make them change their ways, implying that he himself did not know better!
Oh no says Abraham, not even one risen from the dead would affect them simply because they have all the information they need in Moses and the prophets, as we have all the opportunities we need to learn right from wrong.
I am sure that you could reread this story many times and keep finding all sorts of applications to your life. This story tells me very clearly that no matter how much or how little I have, I cannot ignore the hurts, the suffering, the poverty, the needs of others. That even if it were just crumbs that another is looking for, insulating oneself from the suffering of others is the road to perdition. It is one thing that is in total contradiction to the message of Jesus Christ. If I want to call myself a Christian I have to care about those who are in need.