Here’s my homily for September 26, 2010 the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time given at Montclair State University’s Newman Catholic Campus Ministry. The readings for this Mass can be found at Thanks for reading and your feedback and comments! God BlessFr. Jim


This past week, the receiver for the New York Jets, Braylon Edwards was arrested for DWI. He and two of his teammates, his girlfriend and another friend of theirs were driving home after a night out ending at a night club, till after 3 am. We’ve heard the message over and over about the dangers of drunk driving, we’ve seen the commercials “over the limit, under arrest,” so often that it’s sad that drunk driving still happens as often as it does. What makes this even more disappointing than the usual “celebrity behaving badly “story was highlighted in a column by sports writer Michael Vaccaro. Writing in the NY Post, he said; Every time something bad happens in sports, we reach by instinct for silver linings to hand over to athletes armed with silver spoons. And so we reach to the most over-used phrase in modern sports. Cautionary tale.
Or, the term that seems more familiar to me, “warning signs.” Vacarro recounted that about a year and a half ago, Edwards was celebrating with his teammates from the Cleveland Browns. He and his millionaire friends spent over $3,000 on a bar tab. Obviously they weren;t having a couple of beers. That evening Edwards got a hotel room where he slept off the bender. His friend Donte Stallworth didn’t, drove home, thankfully safely at the time…but then got hungry a few hours later so he went back out to get some food. A 59 year old named Mario Reyes, just finishing up a night at work at a shipping company was walking to a bus stop when Stallworth ran him down in his Bentley. Remember, this was a couple hours after he had gotten home from the bar and when he was arrested his blood alcohol was at .126, still way over the legal limit.
Vacarro’s excellent column went from being enraged to worried for Edwards as he concluded: Edwards saw all of that up close, saw the hazards of even one night of poor judgment. He was there…and yet, early yesterday morning, it was Edwards himself who was pulled over … allegedly blew a 0.16 [on the breathalyzer test]– twice the legal limit and significantly higher than his friend Stallworth’s reading the night he killed a man. If Edwards really was just like us, he would understand something this morning: He’s lucky. Lucky he ran into a cop and not a tree, lucky that we aren’t talking about three dead Jets — D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Vernon Gholston were in the car. You hope this will wake him up, that this will be the cautionary tale that hits home, for him and for others. But we all know better, don’t we?
That final sentence seemed to get to what frustrates so many with all of these celebrity stories. Not that people make mistakes – we all know all too well that we make plenty of them ourselves. But when we see celebrities, who are already in the public spotlight for major scrutiny are given a major warning sign and that they seem to ignore it. We look at that and think – “Didn’t Edwards see what his friend, his teammate did, and that he ended up killing a man?” Wouldn’t that be enough to scare him straight? We hear the latest about Lindsey, Paris, Snookie passed out on the beach – know how they’ve been arrested, in jail, seen other celebs die from some of the things they’ve done and wonder – how many warning signs will it take for them to see how this destructive behavior can cost them and others their lives?
That’s the thing with warning signs though – you have to see the importance of them, realize what’s at jeopardy and then make a fundamental choice or decision to pay attention to them. To learn from them. To heed the warning…
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is issuing a warning sign to the pharisees. And it’s not simply a warning about the need of taking care of the poor. We have to put today’s Gospel in context to get to the depth of what Jesus is saying. The last few weeks we’ve been hearing Jesus teaching. Everyone’s been there listening to Him… He’s got his disciples and followers there. He’s got the Pharisees, the religious elite of the day there checking out what Jesus is saying. And what have they been hearing?
The prodigal son story (which we reflected on 2 weeks ago); the parable of the dishonest steward (which was last week’s gospel). Before we pick up on today’s Gospel reading there’s a small but really important incident that the lectionary skips before we get to Jesus telling this story about a dead man named Lazarus. In that skipped portion, the Gospel says that “the Pharisees who heard all of this laughed at Jesus.
Imagine that – they laughed at all that they had just heard – the story of the prodigal son, the story of the dishonest steward… They laughed at Jesus’ revelation of who God is, this loving, merciful father who never stops thinking about any of His Children any of us – even the most lost, wayward of us… They laughed at Jesus’ telling them that the blessings of wealth, health and power aren’t signs aren’t ways of showing how great and wonderful we are in God’s eyes… but rather it’s in what we do with those, how we live as God’s own children that will determine that. They laughed at these things, considering themselves more superior to what Jesus was warning them about. They were missing the warning sign that Jesus was offering which was how destructive they were being to their spiritual lives. Because as the rich and powerful Pharisees – they knew it all – they “got” religion… (Who’s this Jesus telling us who God is? How dare he tell us that we need to take these blessings which tells us God loves us and help those who God has cursed – that’s why we’re rich and they’re poor).
So much does he even care and love the Pharisees, Jesus is undeterred by their mocking, he tries again with another warning. So we hear this cautionary tale about this poor man Lazarus. If you listened carefully, Jesus isn’t condemning wealth or riches. He’s condemning that the rich man who died was so attached to them, so blinded by them, embarked on a lifelong relentless pursuit for them, even to the expense of everyone around him. This materially poor and suffering man doesn’t even cross his mind as he passes him on the front stoop everyday. What’s so jarring is that the man isn’t even some nameless, anonymous individual. The guy knows his name — LAZARUS. And so even after he had ignored the opportunity to utilize the most precious gifts of wealth, health and power to help the man at the door. After he had rejected the love of God which could have been radically transformed his and Lazarus life and countelss others around him… after all that, he’s wondering why there’s this abyss and chasm between him and God. He doesn’t even recognize he’s created the abyss. And even then he remains self-centered…as he finally acknowledges Lazarus by name, only to ask Lazarus to now alleviate the torment he’s created for himself.
By then, Jesus warns, it’s too late.
God’s love, His Mercy, His desire for us to be with Him for all eternity never ends. That’s who God is. So these warning aren’t meant to scare us into following Him. But Jesus wants us to be clear that these are all choices that we make. Choices that are played out everyday in countless ways right here in our towns, our families, our campus, dorms and classrooms. Am I pursuing Him? Am I trying to follow him? Am I striving to live this life in the way He created me too? Am I desiring and seeking Him?
Or do I laugh in the face of Christ by my actions (or inactions) On a certain level, when we really reflect and think of all that God has done for us, all that we’ve experienced and continue to learn and grasp, it’s sad that we even need such warning signs. What is sadder still is if we chose to ignore them.