Homily for the Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Scriptures for today's Mass
Audio for homily
(Technical problems with audio - will try to post later)
The prophet Amos has his sight set on the “complacent”
who “lie on beds of ivory.”
Anyone here sleep on an ivory bed?
I didn’t think so -- even if we sleep on sheets
whose thread count is important to us,
beds bedecked with pillow shams, duvets, mattress toppers,
bed skirts and memory-foam mattresses
that mold themselves to our body’s contours.
I wonder what Amos would think of all that?
The prophet also had it in for those who
“stretched comfortably on their couches.”
We do that, too, unless we’re stretching out
on our motorized, heated, vibrating
leather massage recliners.
And like the complacent in Zion we also eat the best of foods,
]the native grown, the free range-raised and the organic,
often accompanied by the finest of wines, even if domestic,
which we drink from the most appropriate of stem-ware,
large bowl glasses for reds, smaller ones for whites.
And all of this we do, as in Amos’ day,
anointed with the best oils:
scented perfumes, lotions, colognes and after shaves.
And while we might be mildly indisposed
by the collapse of the poor, the starving and the homeless,
generally speaking we’re not made ill by these realities
as we spend billions upon billions of dollars
on our own comfort and luxury.
The rich man in the gospel had the same problem.
He dressed well and dined sumptuously,
all the time ignoring the poor man, Lazarus,
who was lying at his front door!
Can you imagine
a poor, sick man collapsing at your front door
- and doing nothing about it? Of course not.
Even if you didn’t invite him in,
even if you didn’t go out to help him,
you’d at least call the police and get the man some help.
But the question for us is this:
how do we define “front door?”
Why are we often moved to respond only in proportion
to the proximity of those who are in need of help?
And what if we live in a community
whose front doors are sufficiently secluded
to collapse on our front steps?
Are we any less responsible
if that homeless person collapses
in the streets of Boston?
In the gospel story both Lazarus and the rich man die
and go to their respective eternal rewards.
When the rich man asks that Lazarus be sent
to warn the man’s five brothers
to be more generous to those in need, he’s told,
“Even if someone should rise from the dead
- they will not listen to him…”
Well, someone has risen from the dead - Jesus.
And he has come to tell us, today, that we can’t risk
‘being satisfied and complacent
in responding to the poor, to those in need -
wherever they may be!
There is no measure of distance that relieves us
of our responsibility for those in need.
And indeed, while the poor may not fall on our doorsteps,
the poor are close to us, right here in town.
The Holy Family St. Vincent de Paul Society
is a group of parishioners who respond to calls
Holy Family Parish receives
from those in need, right here in Concord.
The calls come through the parish office and we relay them
to the St. Vincent de Paul folks.
It’s not unusual for us to get 3 or 4 calls - a week
from people in Concord who need housing assistance, food,
clothing and assistance in paying gas, electric and heating bills.
One way of assisting in this work
is to donate to St. Vincent de Paul.
There are boxes for this purpose at the doors of our church.
How much should each of us give in reaching out to the poor
and in support of those who reach out to them in our name?
We each have to make that determination on our own.
But the scriptures tell us clearly today
that determining our generosity to the poor should be measured
in proportion to our generosity to ourselves
with comfort and luxuries.
We live in a well-protected community here in Concord.
We don’t find the poor on our doorsteps.
and even when the poor live on our own street
or around the corner,
we are often protected from knowing who they are
and what their needs might be.
What the scriptures ask of us today,
what they demand of us today,
is that we not be complacent,
that we not allow our comfort and luxury to blind us
to the needs of others in our neighborhoods, in Boston
and around the whole world.
It’s not so much our nice things on which we’ll be judged
but rather on our complacency about those in need.
What the scriptures warn us of today is this:
how easily our nice things can lead us to be complacent
when others need so much for us to be generous.
I am sure that as we come to the Lord’s Table today,
there are some among us who are in need
and others here who have the resources to help them.
And even if no one in need is with us at this Mass,
the poor of the world come in spirit to this altar
in the person of Jesus
who made himself poor that we might be rich in his grace.
In a few moments, we will share in a banquet
(not the feast Amos decried,
nor the table of gospel’s rich man)
but rather, the banquet which is the life of Christ given for us
first on the Cross
and shared with us now, again,
in the Bread and Cup of the Eucharist on this altar.
May the nourishment we receive here
in Communion with Christ, with one another
and with all those in need, make us quick to be generous
from the bottom of our hearts.
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