Deacon Cornellís Homily

Readings:   

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

Date:

September 25-26, 2004, Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

At our small faith group meeting last week, several people were commenting that they found the parable of the prodigal son very hard to listen to because it just didnít seem fair to the elder brother that make all this fuss over his younger brother. Thatís the sign of a good parable: when it makes us feel uncomfortable so that we start examining our assumptions. Most of the time, the discomfort comes from recognizing ourselves in one of the characters in the story. I think most of us subconsciously identify with the elder brother in that parable. I would guess that not too many of us felt uncomfortable listening to todayís 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. Thatís because I donít easily identify with anyone in the story. I am not Lazarus, homeless, sick, begging at the door of some rich person. Iím 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 manís sin is that he is oblivious to the needs of Lazarus, even though he has more than enough to satisfy both his needs and Lazarusí needs.

Hmmm. Letís 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. 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.

While those of us gathered here today may represent a broad range of material wealth, all of us here have been blessed with an abundance of another kind. What if I told you that there was something that could

∑         Increase the average life expectancy of your children by 8 years

∑         Dramatically decrease their risk of suicide and help them rebound from depression 70% faster than the average child

∑         Significantly reduce their use and risk from alcohol, tobacco and drugs

∑         Improve their odds for a ďvery happy lifeĒ

∑         Dramatically reduce their risk for committing a crime

(statistics taken from http://www.sundaysoftware.com/stats.htm). Do you think something like that would be valuable? This miraculous something is active participation in a faith community and those results are taken from studies by places like Duke University, Indiana University, the University of Michigan, the Center for Disease Control and other reputable research centers. All around us we see people who are literally killing themselves trying to fill themselves with something that will truly satisfy them and bring them peace and joy. And we have it. We all laid hold of it, as we heard the author of our second reading remind Timothy, when we made the noble profession of faith at our baptism. We are dressed in the purple garments of the richness of communion with Jesus Christ. We dine lavishly at the table of the Eucharist, feasting on the body and blood our Lord Jesus Christ. How will I be judged on my stewardship of such an abundance of riches while all around at people starving for God?

Now I am really starting to get uncomfortable. Stupid parable. There are three things I better do if I want to be over with Abraham and Lazarus instead of across the chasm with the rich man. The first is to become aware of the need for faith that is all around. It is not always easy to see it. Sometimes it is cloaked in hostility or disdain. And sometimes that hostility and disdain is somewhat warranted because those who most visibly represent faith do not always live according to that faith. Which brings us to the other two things I better do: learn my faith more deeply and more fully, day by day, year by year, and then live it fully and deeply. Too many of us know little or nothing about our faith. Even those of us who are practicing Catholics, often practice out of habit or under penalty of punishment instead of out of true wholehearted love for God and each other.

What does this mean in practical terms? One thing to consider is Generations of Faith. We had a wonderful kickoff gathering last Sunday and are truly impressed with the number of people who are signed up. But the reality is that it is only a fraction of those who come to church regularly. How are the rest of us deepening our faith? No matter how well we think we know our faith, there is always more to learn. And if we really do know a lot, why arenít we sharing that with others in Generations of Faith? You see, people are not led to this active participation in a faith community by some astounding miracle. Neither Moses nor the prophets nor even Jesus rising from the dead have made some of us recognize what we are yearning for. What does draw people to God is a living, loving faith community. Because when we live out our true faith, we make God present in this world. And God is the only thing that can truly fill the hunger in all of us.

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