Today we are given quite convicting readings. I ask each of you to take a moment to pray, and allow the Holy Spirit to touch and convict your heart during this homily and Mass.
In our Gospel Jesus gives us a story of a rich man who dressed in fine and expensive clothes, who dined sumptuously every day. A man who had everything he wanted and was enjoying his life doing whatever he wanted to do. At his doorstep was a poor man, named Lazarus, a man who was covered with sores and didn’t have anything to eat. The rich man didn’t even open his front door and give Lazarus anything, not even scraps of food. The rich man who was living for himself and only looking out for his own desires, probably stepped over Lazarus every day without a second thought.
But the message of this story is not just that we should give of ourselves for the good and care of others, especially the poor.; but the message I want to focus on is the rest of the Gospel story, what happens to Lazarus and the rich man.
The story goes on to say that when Lazarus died, we can assume from natural causes, he went to “the bosom of Abraham”. Remember that Abraham is the Father of Faith, who dwells with God. So to say that Lazarus is in the bosom, means that he is close to the heart of Abraham, is making the point that Lazarus while he suffered greatly on the earth, he is now experiencing the comfort and joy of God in Heaven. On the other hand, when the rich man died, (for the sake of this homily- think that he got into an accident and it was a sudden death), when the rich man died he went to the place of torment. Most of the Early Church Father’s understand that this place of torment is eternal separation from God, or Hell. After all, this Gospel says that there is a great chasm which prevents someone to go from one place to the other, so the rich man cannot go to where Lazarus is.
The rich man in the place of torment, recognized Lazarus, and asked that he cool his tongue with water, but is basically told that he got his reward in his lifetime, whereas now Lazarus is comforted while he is in torment. The rich man recognizing that the way he lived his life deserved eternal separation from God and those God loves, including the poor, wanted Lazarus to warn his brothers about how they were living. But Abraham told the rich man, “they have Moses and the prophets, but if they won’t listen to them, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead”.
So now, I invite you all again to ask the Holy Spirit to help to open your heart and relate the Gospel story to your life.
Can you sense the utter sadness and finality in the rich man’s realization when he’s in Hell, that there is a chasm that cannot be crossed. Recognizing that his living for himself on this earth warranted eternal separation from God, and now that he is dead there is nothing he can do about it. Do you think what happened to the rich man is harsh, that he wasn’t given a second chance? Do you wish you would have a second chance? Well, what if God would say I gave him a chance every day, but he chose to live only for himself and his own desires and stepped over Lazarus every day. Perhaps the poor are placed in our lives to remind us, to show to us how we are living for ourselves and our good, and not looking out for the need of our brothers and sisters.
Are you separated from God or from someone whom you should love? Is there division between you and another? God doesn’t want the separation but wants you to be reconciled. Whether you are at fault, or if the other is, pray and ask how to work toward reconciliation. Let this be your warning, your call to action.
Can you hear the rich man saying to himself: ‘I wish I would have known. I wish I would have known the finality, I wish I would have known the consequences of my actions. If I would have known, then I would have changed. Well my brothers and sisters, consider this homily your warning! For we do have Moses and the prophets, we have the scriptures which tell us the consequences! Do you read and know the Scriptures for yourself?
Take our 1st reading for example: Amos says, Woe to the complacent! Are you, am I complacent? I think complacency is the greatest sins of our time. Complacency is the attitude: ‘well I’m good enough to get to Heaven. The attitude, I believe in God, I’ll be OK. Listen to these convicting Scriptures: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength”. If we really believed that was the standard of faith, the standard of heaven, then we would not be complacent. Or what about: “Those who call out ‘Lord, Lord’ will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father”. Jesus is saying that just saying we believe in God is not enough, but we must also then seek to do the will of God in every area of our lives. Finally, what about this other convicting verse from God in Revelation, “I know your works; I know that you are neither hot nor cold, but you are lukewarm, and because you are lukewarm I will spit you out of my mouth”. Are you lukewarm in your faith? Are you complacent? Consider this your warning! Will you act now? The rich man ran out of time, don’t do the same, don’t assume you’ll have the time later to really give yourself to God. Ask our Lord to show you how you are not loving or living for Him. Ask Him to show you what now in your life is preventing you from being ready to receive the fullness of Heaven, and act upon it now. Our 2nd reading exhorts us, “But you, pursue righteousness, pursue devotion and faith, love, patience, and gentleness. Compete well for the faith. Lay hold of eternal life to which you are called…keep the commandment without stain or reproach”. May each of us pursue the Lord with all of our heart. May we compete well for the faith, and may we strive to be without stain or reproach”.