Hi everyone – here is my homily for the 26th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – September 29, 2013. The readings for today can be found at: https://usccb.org/bible/readings/092913.cfm. Thanks for reading, sharing and your feedback on these homilies. I greatly appreciate – and am humbled to see how many visitors stop by here each week. Have a great week and God Bless Fr. Jim Chern

Almost two weeks ago, there was a report about Terrie Hall who at age 53 had passed away. More than likely many don’t recognize her name or why this would be national news. But more than likely if you saw the 30 second commercial that she was featured in, she’d be more recognizable. She was featured in this extremely graphic advertising campaign that was aimed at getting people to quit smoking (or even better yet, not to start in the first place). It started out with her putting on a wig, putting false teeth in, covering a hole in her throat with a scarf before she addresses viewers with the use of an electronic voice box, replacing the one she lost due to throat cancer that came from years of smoking. She implores people to stop smoking or resist the temptation to start warning them that if they don’t, they could suffer the horrible effects that she did.

There’s a great number of these educational ads – messages warning people of the possibilities of making poor choices… We see campaigns directed warning people not to drive drunk- with images of people getting arrested; In recent years, there’s been a growing number of warnings about texting and driving – recounting stories of people’s “last tweets” before there lives were suddenly ended by someone being inattentive to driving as they sent a message to someone. They can be extremely powerful, effective, heartfelt and sincere messages. But ultimately the decision to pay attention, to heed, to change our behaviors or not… to take the warnings to heart. . . to not be foolish to think we won’t suffer similar disastrous events as these other poor folks rests on us.

That’s the thing with warning signs though – we 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. 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. He’s got his disciples and followers there – so those are the ones who are already committed to Him. He’s got those who’ve heard about Him coming around and wanting to see what all the fuss is about. He’s got the Pharisees, the religious elite of the day there checking out what Jesus is saying. And what have they been listening to Jesus say?

First they heard the prodigal son story (which we reflected on 2 weeks ago); then the parable of the dishonest steward (which was last week’s gospel). And before we pick up on today’s Gospel reading, there was 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 Jesus care and love the Pharisees even as they mock him, He remains undeterred and tries again with another warning. So we hear this cautionary tale about this poor man Lazarus. Now the thing about this message though is that it’s not Jesus being a pre-cursor to Robin Hood. He’s not interested in “class warfare” and pitting the rich versus the poor – which sadly some try to do to advance political arguments or agendas.

Because 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. Lazarus –who was materially poor and suffering didn’t even cross this guy’s mind as he passed him on the front stoop everyday. What’s so jarring is that the poor man isn’t some nameless, anonymous individual. The rich guy (interestingly who does remain nameless) knows the poor guy’s 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 explains, 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. You and I might not be the “rich man” in the parable in terms of material wealth, but if we take stock of our blessings, our opportunities, our comforts – we have to see how indeed rich we are in many different ways. And there are people in our lives, in our visions who are in a sense calling out to us for our attention, our assistance, our love. There are choices that are played out everyday in countless ways right here in our towns, our families, our campus, dorms and classrooms.

How we recognize them by name and respond with offering whatever it is of ourselves that we can to fulfill their needs testifies whether we are pursuing Jesus or not? Are we trying to follow him? Are we striving to live this life in the way He created me too? Are we desiring and seeking Him? Or do we 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.