Introduction: The main theme of this Sunday’s readings is the warning that the selfish and extravagant use of God’s blessings, like wealth, without sharing them with the poor and the needy is a serious sin deserving eternal punishment. Today’s readings stress the Covenant responsibility of the rich for the poor, reminding us of the truth that wealth without active mercy for the poor is great wickedness. It warns us against making money the goal of our existence.
Scripture lessons: Amos, in the first reading, issues a powerful warning to those who seek wealth at the expense of the poor and who spend their time and their money on themselves alone. He prophesies that those rich and self-indulgent people will be punished by God with exile because they don’t care for their poor and suffering brothers. The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 146) praises Yahweh, who cares for the poor. In the second reading, Paul admonishes Timothy and us to pursue virtue (“righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness”); compete well for the faith; lay hold of eternal life; keep the commandment of love, and not wealth.. In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives us a warning, pointing to the destiny of the rich man who neglected his duty to show mercy to poor Lazarus. The rich man was punished, not for having riches, but for neglecting the Scriptures and what they taught on sharing his blessings with the poor.
Life messages: 1) We are all rich enough to share our blessings with others. God has blessed each one of us with wealth or health or special talents or social power or political influence or a combination of many blessings. The parable invites us to share what we have been given with others in various ways instead of using everything exclusively for selfish gains.
2) We need to remember that sharing is the criterion of Last Judgment: Matthew (25:31ff) tells us that all six questions to be asked of each one of us by Jesus when He comes in glory as our judge are based on how we have shared our blessings from him (food, drink, home, mercy and compassion), with our brothers and sisters, anyone in need, for Jesus identifies himself with each of them.
3) We need to treat the unborn as our brother/sister Lazarus. Lazarus in the 21st century is also our pre-born brother and sister. Many of these babies are brutally executed in their mother’s wombs. Their cries for a chance to live are rejected 4400 times a day in our country. The rich man was condemned for not treating Lazarus as his brother. We also will be condemned for our selfishness if we do not treat the preborn as our brothers and sisters.
4) Our choices here determine the kind of eternity we will have. It has been put this way: “Where we go hereafter depends on what we ‘go after,’ here!” Where we will arrive depends on what road we travel. We will get what we choose, what we live for. We are shaping our moral character to fit forever in one of two places.
OT XXVI [C] (Sept 25): Am 6:1a, 4-7; 1Tm 6:11-16; Lk 16:19-31
Homily starter anecdotes: # 1: The parable that challenged Dr. Albert Schweitzer is the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. This story Jesus told made a man with three doctoral degrees (one in medicine, one in theology, one in philosophy), study medicine, leave civilization with all its culture, and amenities and go to the jungles of darkest Africa to serve as a missionary doctor for 47 years. It was this parable which induced a man, who was recognized as one of the best soloists and concert organists in all Europe, to go to a place where there were no organs to play! It was this powerful parable which so intensely motivated a man that he gave up a teaching position as university professor in Vienna, Austria to go to help people who were so deprived that they were still living in the superstitions of the dark ages, for all practical purposes. At the age of 38, he became a full-fledged medical doctor with specialization in tropical medicine. At the age of 43, he left for Africa where he opened a hospital on the edge of the jungle in what was then called Equatorial Africa. He died there in 1965 at the age of 90. The man, of course, was Dr. Albert Schweitzer who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952. The single parable that so radically altered his life, according to him, was our text for this morning, the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the beggar. — That parable convinced Schweitzer that the rich, Europe, should share its riches with the poor, Africa, and that he should start the process. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
# 2: Half to doctors and half to lawyers: Cecil John Rhodes was an enormously wealthy man. He was an English-born businessman, mining magnate, and politician in South Africa. He was the founder of the diamond company De Beers, which today markets 40% of the world’s rough diamonds and at one time marketed 90%. An ardent believer in colonialism and imperialism, he was the founder of the state of Rhodesia to perpetuate his name. One day a newspaperman remarked to him, “You must be very happy.” Rhodes replied, “Happy! No! I spent my life amassing a fortune, only to find that I have spent half of it on doctors to keep me out of the grave, and the other half on lawyers to keep me out of jail!” — He reminds us of the rich man of Jesus’ parable in today’s Gospel. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
# 3: “The Fortunate Fifth” versus the “Forgotten Four-Fifths“. America is increasingly becoming a caste society. We call it a two-coupon society – with severe social separation of the two sets of coupon clippers. The top 10 or 20 percent of the population (50 million), clip their stock coupons and treasury certificates. Their kids go to private schools, while the public schools are deteriorating. Their mail goes Federal Express while the postal service is deteriorating. Their bottled water is delivered to the door while the water system becomes more and more contaminated. The rest of Americans, 200 million, are standing at supermarket check-outs, the poorest members clipping food stamps, while the dwindling middle-class members clip food coupons. Doug Henwood calls this division, “The Fortunate Fifth” versus the “Forgotten Four-Fifths.” Neither group is able to see reality as it is – one group has its head in the clouds, arched in the air above the pain and poverty, while the other has its head is in the sand and dirt, enmeshed in the grind and grime of eking out a living in a service economy and unable to lift up its head for hope or help or anything much else beyond survival. Whitehead groups the poor class into the “traditional poor” (primarily holding part-time service occupations with no benefits), and a frighteningly expanding new group of the poorer than poor known widely as “the underclass” – two million-plus Americans who are permanently homeless and psychologically hopeless, without voice or face in popular culture. New York University’s Lawrence M. Mead shows how many of the ghetto poor are “seceding from mainstream institutions – breaking the law, dropping out of school, not learning English, declining to work.” This “internal secession” he deems as threatening to the nation as the South’s secession in 1861. [See Mead, “The Democrats’ Dilemma,” Commentary 93 (January 1992), 44.] — Like the rich man and Lazarus in today’s Gospel parable, these two groups are separated by a chasm predetermined by their economic status. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
4) “You’ll learn more from that than anything I can tell you.” The story is told of a Franciscan monk in Australia assigned to be the guide and ‘gofer’ to Mother Teresa when she visited New South Wales. Thrilled and excited at the prospect of being so close to this great woman, he dreamed of how much he would learn from her and what they would talk about. But during her visit, he became frustrated. Although he was constantly near her, the friar never had the opportunity to say one word to Mother Teresa. There were always other people for her to meet. Finally, her tour was over, and she was due to fly to New Guinea. In desperation, the Franciscan friar spoke to Mother Teresa: “If I pay my own fare to New Guinea, can I sit next to you on the plane so I can talk to you and learn from you?” Mother Teresa looked at him. “You have enough money to pay airfare to New Guinea?” she asked. “Yes,” he replied eagerly. — “Then give that money to the poor,” she said. “You’ll learn more from that than anything I can tell you.” Mother Teresa understood that Jesus’ ministry was to the poor and she made it hers as well. (Quoted by Fr. Lakra). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
Introduction: The main theme of this Sunday’s readings is the warning that the selfish and extravagant use of God’s blessings, like wealth, with no share going to the poor and the needy, is a serious sin deserving eternal punishment. Today’s readings stress the truth that wealth without active mercy for the poor is great wickedness. It warns us against making money the goal of our existence. At the end of our lives God checks only what kind of persons we were and what good we did for others. We are on the right road when we use our earthly wealth to attain our heavenly goal. Amos, in the first reading, issues a powerful warning to those who seek wealth at the expense of the poor and who spend their time and their money only on themselves. He prophesies that those rich and self-indulgent people will be punished by God with exile because they don’t care for their poor and suffering brothers. The Responsorial Psalm (Ps. 146) praises Yahweh, Who cares for the poor. In the second reading, Paul admonishes us to “pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness” – noble goals in an age of disillusionment – rather than riches. In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives us a warning, pointing to the destiny of the rich man who neglected his duty to show mercy to poor Lazarus. The rich man was punished, not for having riches, but for neglecting the Scriptures and what they taught.
First reading, Amos 6:1, 4-7, explained: Amos’ message from the Lord God was couched in a series of oracles, words, woes, and visions. Today’s first reading (Amos 6:1a, 4-7), is taken from the third woe (6:1-14), concerning self-indulgence, an excellent companion text for today’s Gospel. The prophet Amos laments the self-indulgence and fraternal indifference of the wealthy both in Zion (Southern Kingdom) and Samaria (Northern Kingdom, to which the Lord God had sent Amos as His prophet), who are “living a life of luxury, heedless of the misfortunes of others, of the ‘ruin of Joseph,’” notes the Navarre Bible. Because of this, the people of the Northern Kingdom will be conquered by the Assyrians and will go into exile first. They did so in 721 BC. The collapse of Joseph is not Judah’s collapse. But by designating the Northern Kingdom “Joseph,” the Lord God, through Amos, calls attention to the patriarchal traditions Israel shares with Judah. What kind of brother satisfies expensive tastes while his younger brother suffers? The Lord God tells them that the solidarityone expects of brothers cannot be found among Judah’s elite either; they, too, are people who prefer good food and drink to coming to the aid of other suffering members of the same family. Hence, the Lord God says that He will punish those rich and unsympathetic people of Judah with exile as well. The prophecy was fulfilled when the Southern Kingdom – Judah with Jerusalem as its capital- was razed to the ground in 587 BC by the army of Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar, and its elite rich were led to a humiliating and punishing exile in Babylon. The words of Amos will always be a reminder to us of the call from God for social justice and social inclusion, for, “God takes the side of the poor and needy,” and the Responsorial Psalm concludes with the observation, “The fatherless and the widow He sustains, but the way of the wicked He thwarts – The Lord shall reign forever; your God, O Zion, through all generations, Alleluia.”
Second Reading, 1 Timothy 6:11-16 explained: Timothy held a position in the church at Ephesus like that of the modern Bishop. He was relatively young and of mixed Jewish and Gentile parentage. In the letter, the senior apostle Paul gives the young bishop advice and encouragement. After warning Timothy (6:10) that “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the Faith and pierced themselves with many pains,” he reminds Timothy, the ordained priest and consecrated Bishop, of the Faith he had confessed at his Baptism, of his obligation to “pursue righteousness, devotion, faith love, patience, and gentleness” and of his ongoing call to bear witness to Christ as a loyal teacher and practicer of that Faith. The message for us is that the generous sharing of our talents and resources is the necessary response of our Christian commitment.
Gospel exegesis: (Watch the video homily: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7p4QsmZbWs ) Objectives: Jesus told this parable to condemn the Pharisees for their love of money and lack of mercy for the poor. He also used the parable to correct three Jewish misconceptions held and taught by the Sadducees: 1) Material prosperity in this life is God’s reward for moral uprightness, while poverty and illness are God’s punishment for sins. Hence, there is no need to help the poor and the sick for they have been cursed by God. 2) Since wealth is a sign of God’s blessing, the best way of thanking God is to enjoy it by leading a life of luxury and self-indulgence in dress, eating and drinking, of course, after giving God His portion as tithe. 3) The parable also addresses the Sadducees’ false doctrine which denied the soul’s survival after death, and, so, the consequent retribution our deeds and neglects in this life will receive in the next. Jesus challenges these misconceptions through the parable and condemns the rich who ignore the poor they encounter. The parable also offers an invitation to each one of us to be conscious of the sufferings of those around us and to share our blessings generously.
One-act-play: The parable is presented as a one act play with two scenes. The opening scene presents the luxurious life of the rich man in costly dress, enjoying five course meals every day, in contrast to the miserable life of the poor, sick beggar living in the street by the rich man’s front door, competing with stray dogs for the crumbs discarded from the rich man’s dining table. The name ‘Lazarus’ means ‘God is my help.’ Despite a life of misfortune and suffering, Lazarus does not lose hope in God. As the curtain goes up for the second scene, the situation is reversed. The beggar Lazarus is enjoying Heavenly bliss as a reward for his fidelity to God in his poverty and suffering, while the rich man is thrown down into the excruciating suffering of Hell as punishment for not doing his duty of showing mercy to the poor, sharing with the beggar at his door the mercies and blessings God has given him.
Why punishment for the innocent? Naturally, we are tempted to ask the question, why was the rich man punished? Because he continued to commit the sin of omission although he did not drive either the poor beggar or the stray dogs from in front of his door nor did he prevent either from sharing the discarded crumbs and leftovers from his table. He did not kick Lazarus. He was not cruel to him. The sin of the rich man was that he never noticed Lazarus as a human being and a brother, an who represents a fact of life: the poor, the sick, and the unfortunate who are always around us. He did no wrong, but he did nothing good, either. The problem that rich Dives encountered was that he seemed oblivious to the fact that poor Lazarus was right there outside his gate, and he did not recognize him nor his obligation in charity and justice to help him! In the Catholic teaching, that is the sin of omission (not doing what one is supposed to do). The Fathers of the Church find three culpable omissions in the rich man in the parable. a) He neglected the poor beggar at his door by not helping him to treat his illness or giving him a small house to live in. b) He ignored the scrolls of Sacred Scriptures kept on his table reminding him of Yahweh’s commandment in the book of Leviticus (15:7-11) “Don’t deny help to the poor. Be liberal in helping the widows and the homeless.” c) He led a life of luxury and self-indulgence, totally ignoring the poor people around him, with Cain’s attitude: “Am I the guardian of my brother?” It is not wrong to be rich, but it is wrong not to share our blessings with our less fortunate brothers and sisters. d) He forgot the truth that money is an instrument that can buy everything but happiness and can purchase a ticket to every place but Heaven. e) Although he was greatly blessed with much by way of comfort and enjoyed a life of luxury, his response to his blessedness was serious social blindness and insensitivity to both the needs of the poor and suffering around him and to genuine justice. One third of the total world population is homeless and without food; 500 million are malnourished; 14,000 die every day because they eat nothing. Why does this happen? Because of the sins of omission of those people who selfishly monopolize God’s blessings for themselves.
What is wrong with working hard to acquire a decent standard of living? Nothing really, though there might be some serious questions about where to draw the line that separates a decent standard of living from conspicuous consumption! The real problem is not wealth in itself, but what it can do to us. When we have enough and maybe more than enough to live comfortably, we may begin to forget our dependence on God. We could begin to think we have it made, like the rich man in the Gospel, and become infected with terminal complacency. A comfortable sufficiency can lead to self-indulgence which blinds us to the needs of others. This is what both Amos and Jesus condemn in today’s readings.
The lessons taught: This parable teaches important lessons: a) It reminds us that eventually all of us will experience God’s justice after our death (“particular judgment”), when we are asked to give an account of our lives. b) It points to the Law and the Prophets (the Sacred Scriptures), as ways to learn how to practice righteousness and sacrificial sharing. c) It looks ahead to our resurrection (“neither will they be convinced if someone rises from the dead”), and the reality that the people who heed nothing and die unrepentant will suffer for it. d) God permits injustices in this life, though not in the next. e) Perhaps the main lesson of this parable is that supreme self-love is total moral depravity and making self-gratification one’s supreme goal in life does not merely lead to sin – it is sin.
Pope Saint John Paul II in Yankee Stadium in New York in 1979, during his first visit as Pope to the United States said that this parable “must always be present in our memory; it must form our conscience.” “We cannot stand idly by, enjoying our own riches and freedom, if, in any place, the Lazarus of the twentieth century stands at our doors.” Almost fifty years ago, Pope Saint Paul VI [canonized October 14, 2018, by Pope Francis] spoke of the campaign against hunger in these words: “It is a question of building a world where every person can live a fully human life… where the poor man Lazarus can sit down at the same table with the rich man” (Populorum Progressio 47). Christ is the true rich man who has made himself utterly poor for our sakes for He left the wealth of Heaven to enter our spiritual poverty on Earth. He comes to us not only in Holy Communion, though that is, by far, the greatest of His gifts to us, but He comes to us also in the poor. He is the poor man who sits at our doorsteps and on our streets. He hides the wounds of the Cross under those of addiction and poverty. He suffers in all who are poor, needy or abandoned, from the child in the womb to the old person dying alone, from the poorest of the poor in Africa to those unjustly imprisoned. What we do or fail to do for them we do or fail to do for Jesus.
Life messages: 1) We are all rich enough to share our blessings with others. God has blessed each one of us with wealth or health or special talents or social power or political influence or a combination of many blessings. The parable invites us to share what we have been given with others in various ways, instead of using everything exclusively for selfish gains.
2) We need to remember that sharing is the criterion of the Last Judgment: Matthew (25:31ff), tells us that all six questions to be asked of each one of us by Jesus when He comes in glory as our judge are based on how we have shared our blessings from Him (food, drink, home, mercy, and compassion), with our brothers and sisters, anyone in need,in whom he is found. Here is the message given by Pope St. John Paul II in Yankee Stadium, New York during his first visit to the U.S., October 2, 1979. “The parable of the rich man and Lazarus must always be present in our memory; it must form our conscience. Christ demands openness to our brothers and sisters in need – openness from the rich, the affluent, the economically advanced; openness to the poor, the underdeveloped, and the disadvantaged. Christ demands an openness that is more than benign attention, more than token actions or halfhearted efforts that leave the poor as destitute as before or even more so. …We cannot stand idly by, enjoying our own riches and freedom, if, in any place, the Lazarus of the 20th century stands at our doors.”
3) We need to treat the unborn as our brother/sister Lazarus. The Lazarus of the 21st century is also our preborn brother and our preborn sister. These babies are brutally executed in their mother’s wombs. Their cries for a chance to live are rejected 4400 times a day in our country. This Lazarus is the person torn apart and thrown away by abortion. The rich man was condemned for not treating Lazarus as his brother. We also will be condemned for our selfishness if we do not treat the preborn as our brother and sister. “Who am I to interfere with a woman’s choice to abort?” I am a brother, a sister of that child in the womb! I am a human being who has enough decency to stand up and say “NO!” when I see another human being about to be killed. I am a person gifted with enough wisdom to realize that injustice to one human being is injustice to every human being, and that my own life is only as safe as the life of the preborn child. Finally, I am a follower of the One who said, “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, you do to me.”
4) Our choices here determine the kind of eternity we will have. It has been put this way: “Where we go hereafter depends on what we ‘go after,’ here!” Where we will arrive depends on what road we travel. We get what we choose, what we live for. We are shaping our moral character to fit forever in one of two places.
JOKE OF THE WEEK
1) “Oh Lord, hit him again!” The parish church was badly in need of repair. So the pastor called a special meeting inside the Church to raise funds. At the assembly the pastor explained the need of an emergency fund for plastering the roof and supporting pillars and the other areas which needed repair. He invited pledge of contributions. After a brief pause Mr. Murphy, the richest man in the parish, volunteered he would give 50 dollars. Just as he sat down, a hunk of plaster fell from the ceiling on the head of Mr. Murphy. He jumped up looking terribly startled and corrected himself: “I meant to say 500 dollars.” The congregation stood silent and stunned. Then a lone voice cried out: “Oh Lord, hit him again!”
2) “Jesus died between two thieves.” An old pastor was dying. He sent a message for his IRS agent and his lawyer (both Church members), to come to his home. When they arrived, they were ushered up to his bedroom. As they entered the room, the dying pastor held out his hands and motioned for them to sit on each side of the bed. The pastor grasped their hands, sighed contentedly, smiled and stared at the ceiling. For a time, no one said anything. Both the IRS agent and lawyer were touched and flattered that the old pastor would ask them to be with him during his final moment. They were however puzzled because the pastor had never given any indication that he particularly liked either one of them. Finally, the lawyer asked, “Father, why did you ask the two of us to come?” The old pastor mustered up some strength, then said weakly, “Jesus died between two thieves, and that’s how I want to go, too.”
3) Drowsy Living: There is a sign series on the West Virginia Turnpike that says, “Driving while drowsy can put you to sleep – permanently.” Drowsy, uncaring living can put us to sleep – permanently. That kind of person, Jesus says, is separating himself from God until it becomes permanent, digging a chasm between himself and Heaven that even the love of God cannot bridge. (Carveth Mitchell, The Sign in the Subway, CSS Publishing Company).
4) Grab as many bottles as you can. The old beer adage which I am sure you all remember and follow went like this: You only go around once, so grab as many bottles as you can. We do go around only once in this world, as you may have noticed, or perhaps not, and we should grab every opportunity to do good that we encounter.
5) “It’s my dad’s.” Harry and his neighbor Joe often borrowed things from each other. One day, Harry asked to borrow Joe’s ladder. Joe said, “Sorry Harry, I’ve lent it to my son.” Remembering a saying that his grandma often used to tell him, Harry said, “Joe, you should never lend anything to your children because you’ll never get it back.” Joe replied, laughing, “Don’t worry, it’s not my ladder. It’s my dad’s.”
6) “I wish you would beat me half to death.” A man was walking on the beach one afternoon kicking up the sand. There on the beach was a bottle and as he walked he kicked the bottle into the surf. Out of the bottle came a mysterious being… a Genie. “Because you have freed me you are granted three wishes…but be advised that with each one your mother-in-law will receive double what you ask for.” Thinking seriously the man responded, “ I would like $10,000,000.” “Granted and your mother-in-law will receive twenty million.” “Next wish”…..I would like 10 new cars, Corvettes, Ferrari, Vipers, “Granted but you know your mother-in-law will receive 20 new cars.” Great. “This is your last wish now so think about it seriously”…..The man thought and thought and finally he responded, “I wish you would beat me half to death.” Is the story true? Could it possibly take place? A silly little joke but many sons-in-law might say “Amen!” We laugh at the story but in reality the little joke reveals a hidden truth about at least one man…he really did not care for his mother-in-law. He who laughs the most probably……I’ll just leave it at that.
USEFUL WEBSITES OF THE WEEK (For homilies & Bible study groups
1) Fr. Don’ collection of video homilies & blogs: https://sundayprep.org/featured-homilies/ (Copy it on the Address bar and press the Enter button)
2) Fr. Geoffrey Plant’s beautiful & scholarly video classes on Sunday gospel, Bible & RCIA topics: https://www.youtube.com/user/GeoffreyPlant20663)
3)Fr. Nick’s collection of Sunday homilies from 65 priests & weekday homilies: https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies
4) Dr. Brant Pitre’s commentary on Cycle C Sunday Scripture for Bible Class: https://catholicproductions.com/blogs/mass-readings-explained-year-Biblical basis of Catholic doctrines: http://scripturecatholic.com/
5) Agape Catholic Bible Lessons: http://www.agapebiblestudy.com/
6) Audio Bible Pronunciation Guide: http://netministries.org/bbasics/bbwords.htm
9) The New Testament Gateway: http://www.ntgateway.com/
11) Pope Francis on the parable: https://www.humanthreadcampaign.org/blog/pope-francis-on-the-rich-man-and-poor-lazarus/ & https://georgiabulletin.org/news/2017/02/pope-francis-lent-message-rich-man-lazarus-word-gift-persons-gift/
12) (Watch the video homily: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7p4QsmZbWs for good exegesis
17 Additional anecdotes
1) “America’s Mansions.” There used to be a television show, America’s Mansions, that featured homes of the extremely rich in the U. S. One was the Vanderbilt estate in Hyde Park, New York constructed by a wealthy industrialist of the nineteenth century. It is a fifty-four-room home, with a breathtaking view of the Hudson River and the Catskill Mountains in the distance. Another feature was the home of Bill Gates the richest man in the world. Its building cost was over $53 million. It is a fifty-four-room house: a 66,000 square foot complex with seven bedrooms, 24 bathrooms, six fireplaces and an 11,500 square-foot inner sanctum for privacy. The financier Nelson Peltz’s mansion on his waterfront estate in Florida is worth $75 million. The original price of the Bel-Air Mansion owned by Iris Cantor, the widow of Gerald Cantor, was $60 million. (http://www.forbes.com). We find it hard to imagine living in such luxury. But neither can we imagine the poverty found around the world. Here is the report of the United Nations Human Development Commission. “The richest fifth [20 percent] of the world’s people consumes 86 percent of all goods and services, while the poorest fifth [20 percent] consumes just 1.3 percent.” The three richest people in the world have assets that exceed the combined gross domestic product of the 48 least developed countries. “Americans spend $8 billion a year on cosmetics–$2 billion more than the estimated annual total needed to provide basic education for everyone in the world.” Each day over 700 million people do not get enough to eat. Each year twelve million children below the age of five starve to death in a world that produces enough food for everyone to eat over 4 pounds of food a day. 250,000 go blind each year because of vitamin deficiency in their diet. In Latin America, forty million abandoned children live on the streets. Even in the United States about three million people are homeless at least a part of each year. — In today’s Gospel, Jesus suggests a remedy: share your blessings generously with others instead of using them selfishly — thus making yourselves eligible for eternal punishment. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
2) Here is the image of God covered with rags! There is a Jewish story about Rabbi Joshua, the son of Levi, and his trip to Rome in the third century. He was astounded to see the magnificence of the buildings, especially the care lavished upon statues which were covered with exquisite cloths to protect them from the summer heat. As he was admiring the beauty of Roman art, a beggar plucked at his sleeve and asked for a crust of bread. The sage looked at the statues and turning to the beggar in rags said: “Here are statues of stones covered with expensive clothes, and here is a man created in the image and likeness of God covered with rags. A civilization that pays more attention to statues than to human beings shall surely perish.” — Telling the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in today’s Gospel, Jesus asks us the same question: What are our “statues,” our priorities? The poor and powerless, the illiterate, the homeless, the ill? (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
3) “A diet plan I can recommend!”: Guideposts magazine, several years ago, published an account of how a young woman named Mary Bowers MacKorell found an effective weight loss plan. Mary’s doctor told her she needed to lose several pounds. She went through many diet plans, counted her calories and used dietetic foods, but found she just didn’t have the necessary willpower. One day she received a pamphlet about needy people in her mail. Pictured on the pamphlet was a dark-skinned, scrawny, near skeletal boy. MacKorell says that she experienced a kind of spiritual shock treatment at the sight of the starving child. She began to think more seriously about how she could take off unnecessary pounds and put them where they were needed on this starving child. “At last I had a spiritual motivation for reducing,” she said. “Under God’s guidance I formed a practical plan and carried it through. For a period of ten days I ate only two meals a day, skipping lunch. Each day at the lunch hour I sipped a sugar free drink and looked at the picture of the starving boy. I prayed to God to bless him and let my extra weight be transferred to him or someone like him. For each lunch I omitted I placed in a box for missions one dollar saved. Now there is a diet plan I can recommend.” The parable of the rich man and Lazarus in today’s Gospel gives all of us a similar diet plan. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
4) “I have so much, and you have so little.” There is a story about David Rockefeller of Chase Manhattan Bank when he was traveling through South America. A group of bank officials of the government of Uruguay invited him for lunch, hoping for a sizable loan. The affair was held at a club that was famous locally for its magnificent cold appetizer buffet. Rockefeller passed through the line first and, thinking this to be the entire meal, served himself generously. Once seated, he noticed that others had taken skimpier portions. “I have so much,” he said to the president of Banco Central, “and you have so little….” “I am glad you mentioned that Mr. Rockefeller” interrupted his host, “because that is exactly what we want to talk to you about!”* — You and I are not Rockefellers, but we, too, have so many blessings and talents from God. Others have so little. The 5 billionth baby was born on planet earth recently. Chances are very, very high that baby will live all his or her life poorly clothed, poorly housed, poorly fed. That is because most of the babies born today are in the so-called third world where poverty is the rule and not the exception. Hence, today’s Gospel parable challenges us to share our blessings with the less fortunate ones in our society. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
5) Hell full of Lutherans: There is a town in Norway named Hell. A couple of Lutherans from the U.S. visited Norway some time back and then sent a postcard to their pastor back home. He read it at a meeting of the parish council. “Dear Father,” it said, “We passed through Hell today, and we’re concerned. Almost everyone here seems to be Lutheran.” [Leonard R.N. Ashley, The Amazing World of Superstition . . . (New York: Bell Publishing Co., 1988).] — In today’s Gospel Jesus reminds us that Hell is a realty, and it is meant for selfish people. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
6) “He doesn’t believe in Hell.” You may have heard about a young woman about to get married who said to her mother, “I can’t marry him, mother. He’ is an atheist and he doesn’t believe there is a Hell.” — Her mother responded, “That’s all right, dear! Marry him, and between the two of us I am sure we can convince him.” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
7) Making a Difference: Some of you are old enough to remember Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. She arrived at the seat of power as a president’s wife, but her power was much more pronounced than that of any other First Lady. Mrs. Roosevelt was a one-woman war on poverty during the Depression. She visited coal mines, hospitals, and squatters’ camps all over the nation. She traveled around the world, speaking with kings, presidents, and the destitute with equal enthusiasm and compassion. During her husband’s presidency, she acted as unofficial ambassador to the world and devil’s advocate to his conscience and the conscience of a nation. She achieved all this in spite of the fact that she was painfully shy. After her husband’s death, with no official capacity, Mrs. Roosevelt continued to be a spokesperson for dozens of causes. When President Truman appointed her to the newly-formed United Nations, he was confident that he had given Mrs. Roosevelt a perfect platform from which to launch a worldwide fight for fairness and equality. Everyone she came into contact with felt the power of her convictions. Her work on the “Bill of Human Rights” for the United Nations came to fruition after four years of arduous effort. To date, this document has been used as the basis for the constitutions of sixty nations! Eleanor Roosevelt was on a mission, and she made a major difference in our world. [Sheila Murray Bethel, Making a Difference, (New York: Berkley Books, 1990).] — If you and I are not as powerful as we ought to be, maybe it is because we have no mission burning in our soul. God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power. God has also given us a spirit of love. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
8) “Grandfather’s Corner,” is the story of an old man who lived with his son and his son’s wife and children. The man was almost deaf and blind and had difficulty eating without spilling his food. Occasionally, he would drop a bowl and break it. His son and daughter-in-law thought it was disgusting and made the old man eat in a corner behind the stove. They gave him a wooden bowl which could not be broken. One day the old man’s little grandson was working with some pieces of wood. When his father asked what he was doing, he replied, “I’m making a trough for you and mother to eat out of when I’m grown up.” From that moment on, the grandfather rejoined the family at the table. No one ever said another word about it. [Leo Buscaglia, Bus 9 to Paradise (New York: Wm. Morrow & Co., 1986), pg. 249.] — What goes around comes around. The way we treat other people is the way we will be treated. That is especially true within the family. The boy saw how his father treated his grandfather and assumed that it was an acceptable way to treat someone who was old. In today’s parable Jesus warns us that we will reap in the next world what we sow in this world. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
9) Caring and sharing with the poor: Dr. Samuel Johnson was a great lexicographer, writer, critic and conversationalist. He was the first one to make an attempt to write an English Dictionary. William Barclay gives this account of his kindness and generosity. “Surely one of the loveliest pictures in literary history is the picture of Johnson, in his own days of poverty, coming home in the small hours of the morning, and as he walked along the Strand, slipping pennies into the hands of waifs and strays who were sleeping in the doorways because they had nowhere else to go. When someone asked him how he could bear to have his house filled with ‘necessitous and undeserving people,’ Johnson answered, “If I did not assist them no one else would, and they must not be lost for want.” — Dr. Johnson cared and was concerned about the beggars, and the strays that flocked to him. (John Rose in John’s Sunday Homilies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
10) Dear Abby: The Dear Abby column once received a letter from a 15-year-old girl which read as follows: Dear Abby, “Happiness is not having your parents scold you if you come home late, having your own bedroom, and getting the telephone call you’ve been hoping for. Happiness is belonging to a popular group, being dressed as well as anybody, and having a lot of spending money. Happiness is something I don’t have! 15 and Unhappy.” Shortly after the letter was published, Dear Abby received a reply from 13-year-old girl who wrote: Dear Abby: “Happiness is being able to walk and talk, to see and hear. Unhappiness is reading a letter from a 15-year-old girl who can do all four things and still says she isn’t happy. I can talk, I can see, I can hear. But I can’t walk! 13 and Happy.” These letters reflect two different points of view on happiness. Today’s Gospel parable does the same. (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
11) Vanity of Wealth: The famous Greek law-giver Solon once went on a vacation to the town of Lydia, now in Turkey. It boasted the richest king in the world, named Croesus. Solon, the great philosopher, – quite detached from all possessions of this world – decided to visit the man who seemed to find all his happiness in wealth. As soon as he got to the place, Croesus decided to show his vaults. “What do you think of that?” he demanded triumphantly. But Solon kept silent and so the king went on, “Who do you think is the happiest man in the world? The philosopher thought for a moment, and then named two obscure Greeks whose names Croesus had never heard before. The king was angered because he had been cheated out of a compliment, so he asked sharply for an explanation. Solon answered, “No man can be considered really happy whose heart is wedded to material things. They pass and their owner becomes a widow. To widows belongs grief. Nor can the man himself who passes away and can take none of his gold with him. Again, it is only grief.” (Frank Michalic in 1000 Stories You Can Use; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
12) The parable which transformed St. Vincent de Paul and Frederick Ozanam: September 27th is the feast of Saint Vincent de Paul. In 16th century France, Saint Vincent de Paul observed the disparity between the rich and the poor. As a priest, he had the opportunity to experience the aristocratic life as well as the life of the destitute poor in Paris. He organized groups of women called Charities who gave their time and belongings to the poor. Some of these women chose the consecrated life and became the first female congregation to live a consecrated life “in the world,” and not in the cloister. Saint Vincent de Paul and Saint Louise de Marillac founded this congregation, named the “Daughters of Charity.” Our first U.S.-born saint, Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton, founded the U.S. branch of the Daughters of Charity. Two centuries after Saint Vincent de Paul, a 20-year old college student, Frederick Ozanam, and five other students, witnessed the dire poverty of the lower social classes in Paris. They decided to dedicate themselves to the poor, after the example of Saint Vincent de Paul. In 1833, they established the “Conference of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul,” soon to be called “The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul.” — They were determined to bring not only bread but friendship to the poor. They would not ignore the Lazaruses at their door in 19th century Paris. Frederic Ozanam was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1997. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
13) `What do they have to move?’ Dr. Leo Buscalgia tells of an experience he had in Cambodia years ago. He noticed that during monsoon season the people’s way of life changed. The great rains washed away their houses, so the people lived on great communal rafts, several families together. Dr. Buscalgia writes: “I went down there on a bicycle and there they were. I thought I’d help these people move and become part of their community. The Frenchwoman whom I was talking with just laughed. — `What do they have to move?’ she asked. `Nature has taught them the only thing they have is from the top of their head to the bottom of their feet. Themselves, not things. They can’t collect things because every year the monsoon comes.'” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
14) Near death experiences: On January 18, 1989, around 11:45 a.m., thirty-nine-year-old Larry Donald Piper’s Ford Escort collided head-on with a semi-truck. EMTs arrived shortly thereafter and pronounced him dead at the scene. Unconscious in the wrecked vehicle, Piper claims to have spent ninety minutes at the entrance to heaven, seeing deceased loved ones, hearing celestial music, and walking toward heaven’s gate. Before he entered, however, God sent him back. Piper’s book, 90 Minutes in Heaven, which recounts his near-death experience, remained on the New York Times best-seller list for more than five years and has sold over six million copies. Even more recently, in the 2010 New York Times best-selling book, Heaven is for Real, Todd Burpo relates the near-death experience of his then-three-year-old son, Colton. The book recounts Colton’s journey to Heaven, where he personally met Jesus riding a rainbow-colored horse and sat in Jesus’ lap when angels sang songs to him. Burpo’s book has since sold over 10 million copies and was adapted into a feature film, earning over $100 million at the box office. Other near-death-experiences are recorded in books like 23 Minutes in Hell by Bill Weise (2006), The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven written by Kevin Malarkey (2010), and Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander (2012). — While I think the subjective experiences of near-deathers do little to prove their claims, the sales record of books such as these certainly proves one thing—our culture is curious, even obsessed, about the afterlife. We want to know what happens after death. What will we see? What will we feel? Does Jesus really have brown hair, blue eyes, and a rainbow-colored horse!? Rather than relying on the notoriously unreliable experiences of others, Christians ought to rely on Scripture. The Bible tells us, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him, but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10). (Rev Scott Bayles). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
15) They have Moses and the prophets: The rich man in today’s Gospel realized only after death the full gravity of his selfishness toward poor Lazarus. Then (to his credit) he did beg “Father Abraham” to send Lazarus back to warn the deceased’s brothers to be more unselfish. But Abraham replied, “Why? They already know right from wrong. Moses and the prophets have taught them that. If they ignore Moses and the prophets they will not resopond to someone coming to them after his death. — There is nothing more frightening to contemplate than a man stubbornly committed to sin. Misusing his free will, he has deliberately chosen what honest conscience tells him is wrong. Even God cannot rescue him from his willful blindness. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
16) Leon Czolgosz is perhaps an illustration. On September 6, 1901, in Buffalo, Czolgosz assassinated U.S. President William McKinley. He was found guilty and sentenced to electrocution at Auburn Prison. Leon was of Polish Catholic background, but had become a professed atheist, anarchist, and terrorist. Prison authorities, according to custom, reminded the prisoner that he had a right to see a clergyman. He did ask for pictures of available clergy of various faiths. The pastor of Auburn’s Holy Family Church sent a sheaf of pictures to the prison, delivered by an altar boy, Patrick Byrne. Czolgosz chose Father Theophil Szadzinski, the pastor of St. Stanislaus Church in Rochester, who happened to be in Auburn. Father Theophil went to the jail accompanied by Patrick Byrne and another altar boy. The boys waited in the outer office. After a long time, the priest came out. Pat asked him anxiously what success he had had. “Paddy” said Father Theophil, “priests don’t talk about such things.”– Now it is possible that the assassin had a change of heart the moment before the switch was turned on. But there was no record that he died reconciled to God. Ironically, Paddy Byrne, the altar boy who had been so concerned about Czolgosz’s conversion himself died at the hands of another sort of atheistic radicals a half century later. Patrick J. Byrne had grown up to be a prominent Maryknoll missionary in the Far East. In 1949 Pope Pius XII made him a bishop and apostolic delegate to Korea. But one year later the Korean Communists overran the capital, Seoul, captured a host of foreigners, among them Bishop Byrne, and made them take a “Death March” across the country. Bishop Byrne died of the hardships of that forced trek on November 25, 1950. Good deeds have far-reaching effects. So, unfortunately, do evil ones. (Fr. Robert F. McNamara). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
17) Who are you in this story? Don’t forget that just about all Gospel stories act as a “mirror,” and you can see yourself clearly if you put on your “honesty” glasses. Who do you associate yourself with: the poor old beggar Lazarus, or the rich man Dives? If you say “neither,” then you just might need to clean your eyeglasses. Too many times we fall into the “trap” of making “Self” the center of our lives. We become complacent, just like the people of Northern Israel were doing at the time of the Prophet Amos. We hear in the First Reading (Amos 6:1a, 4-7) that the rich were simply ignoring the poor, one of the worst injustices that can happen to a person or to a strata of society. Is it possible that we may think once we make out our check for the Sunday collection, we have taken care of the poor? Not necessarily so. Do you know if your Parish in turn tithes its income to the poor sector? How much, in fact, does your Parish give to the poor from that collection basket? An attitude of “Indifference” – the sin of Dives – might say, “that’s Father’s problem.” Not so! Dives represents each one of us, whenever we become indifferent to the plight of the poor in any way whatsoever. If you think rich Dives got what he deserved, take a closer look into that mirror of scripture. Recognize anyone? If not, God bless you for your generosity and kind heart! If you do recognize yourself, it is never too late to care for God’s special ones, the materially poor – that is the Good News for each one of us. A final question for us: who is “spiritually” poor in this gospel story, and in our personal life story? (Fr. Robert F. McNamara). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/). L/22
“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle C(No. 53) by Fr. Tony:firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit my website by clicking on https://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed or previous Cycle C homilies, 141 Year of Faith “Adult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at email@example.com. Visit https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies of Fr. Nick’s collection of homilies or Resources in the CBCI website: https://www.cbci.in. (Special thanks to Vatican Radio website http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html -which completed uploading my Cycle A, B and C homilies in May 2020) Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604
Suggested intercessory prayers for Sept 25th Sunday, The Priest Day)
Having heard proclaimed the saving works of God among us, let us now bring before the God of joy and promise our needs.
For God’s holy Church: May our pope, bishops and priests continue to minister in humble justice and faithful service. Let us pray to the Lord.
For nations and their governments: May they hear the call to work toward peace, justice and equity between one another and for the people they serve. Let us pray to the Lord.
For all who have suffered abuse: May those who have suffered abuse find strength, hope and peace. Let us pray to the Lord.
For an increase in religious vocations: May men and women respond to the Christ’s call to serve the Church in the priesthood, diaconate or religious life. Let us pray to the Lord.
For all who suffer from sickness, hunger or loneliness: May they find in our communities faithful support and generous kindness. Let us pray to the Lord.
For those struggling with doubt, anxiety or fear: May the peace of Christ embrace them and lead them to his comforting light. Let us pray to the Lord.
Concluding prayer by the priest (From Serra flyer)