Lazarus means ‘God is my help.’
Imagine this scene. A man dies and arrives before the Judgment Seat of God. The divine Judge goes through the Book of Life and does not find the man’s name. So He announces to the man that his place is in hell. The man protests, “But what did I do? I did nothing!” “Precisely,” replies God, “that is why you are going to hell.”
This weekend again the readings challenge us on stewardship. Are we a good steward? I do not remember anywhere in the Scriptures where Jesus condemned the wealthy simply for having wealth. He condemned those who allowed their wealth to make them forget about the God who had blessed them so generously, like the farmer we heard a couple of weeks ago. He had such a great harvest that he had to tear down his barns to build bigger ones and he gave no thought to the eternal life. Or Jesus condemned those who allowed their wealth to lead them into dishonesty like the unjust steward we heard about last week. Or Jesus condemned those who allowed wealth to make them selfish and self-centered like the rich man in today’s Gospel.
The poor man Lazarus was lying at his gate. And the rich man simply couldn’t care less. In the meantime dogs went and licked Lazarus’ wounds. And the poor man died. Of course the rich man did nothing against Lazarus. But he has failed to do a good deed.
We are not told the rich man acquired his wealth by foul means. We are not told he was responsible for the poverty and misery of Lazarus. We are not told he committed any crime or evil deed. All we are told is that he was feeding and clothing well as any other successful human being has a right to do.
Whenever we sin/mistake, we think we commit sin/mistake by our thoughts, words and action. Most of the time we forget, we commit sins of omission. In the prayer “I Confess” we say these words: “I have sinned through my own fault, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do.” This is what happens to the rich man, he failed to reach out and share a little of his blessings with someone in need.
In the first reading, God, through His Prophet Amos, warned people of the coming downfall of the Northern Kingdom of Israel because of its disrespectful, and arrogant treatment of the poor and the needy by the rich and powerful. In the second reading, St. Paul instructs the first century Judeo-Christians to become true stewards of the Gospel of Jesus, the only mediator, by preaching the “Good News” to the gentiles and by including them in intercessory prayers, too.
The first and second reading brings connection with the Gospel story and invites us to reflect on stewardship. There are many Lazarus’ at our own gates, in our own families, and in our neighborhoods. They are the people that we easily overlook, dismiss, or ignore.
Invest for Eternity!
I learned an interesting story about George C. Parker. He was a clever con man who used to convince people that he could sell them the Brooklyn Bridge. They say he sold the Brooklyn Bridge as often as twice a week for thirty years. Now, why would anyone want to buy the Brooklyn Bridge? It’s not like they could put it in their back yards. Well, Parker told his victims that once they owned the bridge, they could set their own tolls. This is a true story. It took place during the 1920's in New York City. Several times the police had to stop the “new owners” of the Brooklyn Bridge from setting up toll booths in the middle of the span.
Now, aside from being naive, and perhaps a bit dim-witted, why would people believe Parker and give him up to $50,000 for the Bridge? This happened because Parker worked hard studying his potential victims. He knew what made them tick and exploited their weakness. For some it was greed; for others it was vanity. “You could rename the bridge after yourself. After all, it would be your bridge.” One man had his doubts and asked Parker, “Are you sure the bridge is for sale?” Parker told him, “Of course it is for sale, didn’t you see the for sale sticker on one of the beams?” And the man believed him!
For those who were a bit more intelligent, hopefully the rest of the world, Parker had set up an office complete with pictures of the Brooklyn Bridge and bogus legal papers. He did quite a bit of work and earned quite a bit of cash. Oh, he also was convicted of fraud and spent the last nine years of his life in New York’s Sing Sing Prison.
In the Gospel passage the rich man wants his money. St. Augustine said, “I can’t believe that this story came from the lips of our Lord.” Jesus tells a paradoxical story about the steward (manager) of the estate of a rich absentee landlord. The rich man heard that his employee was taking advantage of him. The main point is not about the employee was stealing nor reducing the debt that various businesspeople owed his master. The main point of the reading is that the employee was cleaver and wasted no time in planning for a secure future for himself. Jesus wanted to tell us that we need to be as cleaver in planning for a secure future for ourselves: not just few years here on earth, but also for our time eternity.
The first reading from the book of Amos tells us that when Israelites enjoyed prosperity, they forgot about God who blessed them so richly. When they lost touch with God, this led them to its collapse. In the second reading, I Timothy instructs the first century Judeo-Christians to become true stewards of the gospel of Jesus, the only mediator, by preaching the “good news” to the pagans and including them in intercessory prayers.
Jesus said at the end of today’s Gospel, "You cannot serve two masters, you will hate one and be devoted to the other or vice-versa. A person cannot serve both God and Mammon." We need money to operate our family or institutions. We may need to invest money in the market. Our resources are a blessing from God. The question is who has first place in our life/heart? Jesus is telling us today to use the blessings God has given us to help us get closer to God and not let our possessions become a god in themselves. All three readings challenges us to use our blessings - time, talents, health and wealth - wisely and smartly so that they will count for our good in eternity. Our life in this earth is temporary. Eternity is forever.
Have you ever lost something? What do we do? We search for it. The intensity of the search is determined by the value of the lost item. A couple of years ago, I lost my car key. I cannot remember all the bits and pieces, but remember the tension when I lost it and joy when I found it. It was a Sunday afternoon, after all the Masses, had a bit to eat. There were a couple of events taking place that afternoon. All of sudden I cannot find my car key. If I remember correctly, I was planning to go for Chequamegon High School Madrigals. After or before the madrigal, I was suppose to visit someone in the hospital. I was praying and searching for the key. I prayed to St. Anthony. I cannot go anywhere, I am stuck. I remember at the last minute, I found the key outside of the door. It was a moment of relief and joy.
The Gospel presents to us three lost and found stories. The first one, shepherd who loses his sheep. The shepherd goes out to search for the one lost sheep. Second, women loses the coin. She turns the house upside down in search of it. Third, the story of the prodigal son. I would like to call this story, story of prodigal Father who lavishly shares with his lost son. All three stories talk about celebration of joy. In our faith journey, sometimes we may be the lost one, some other times we may be the older brother of prodigal, who is reluctant to accept the fathers generous forgiveness.
I would like to borrow a thought from Fr. Bloom. He writes, many years ago, in England, three men were pouring into a trough a mixture of water, sand, lime and other ingredients. A passer-by asked them what they were doing. The first said, "I am making mortar." The second: "I am laying bricks." But the third said, "I am building a cathedral." They were doing the same thing, but each looked at it differently. And what a difference that made! We can see something similar in the way people relate to their parish, why they give. One person says, "Oh! All they do down there is ask for money." The second person replies, "Well, you have to pay the bills." But the third person says, "I am building the Body of Christ."
Catechetical Sunday is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the role that each person plays, by virtue of Baptism, in handing on the faith and being a witness to the Gospel. Catechetical Sunday is an opportunity to rededicate ourselves to this mission as a community of faith. Each one of us is a catechist. There are a good number of people who volunteer to teach our faith with our young people. We recognize them and we thank them for their generosity. Audrina Damrow and Andria Schwemmer are making their first Communion. All summer, they were attending the Right of Christian Initiation for Children (RCIC). Our celebration of Catechetical Sunday is made more joyful. I would like to Congratulate Andria and Audrina at their first communion.
Prayer for Catechists
O God, our Heavenly Father, you have given us the gift of these catechists to
be heralds of the Gospel to our parish family.
We lift them up to you in thanksgiving and intercede for them concerning their
hopes and needs.
May we be attentive to the presence of your Word in them, a Word that lifts up
and affirms, calls forth and challenges, is compassionate and consoles.
We pray that our parish family will always be blessed with those who have responded to
the call to share in Christ’s prophetic mission as catechists. May we too be open to the
universal call to service that Christ addresses to all of his disciples, contributing our gifts to
the communion of faith, the Church.
We ask this in Jesus’ name.
Gale Sayers, who played with the Chicago Bears back in the 1960s, ranks among the greatest running back in the history of professional football. Around his neck he always wore a gold medal about the size of a half-dollar. On it were inscribed three words: I am Third.
Those three words became the title of his best-selling auto-biography. The book explains why the words meant so much to Gale. They were the motto of his track coach, Bill Easton, back at the University of Kansas.
Coach Easton kept the words on a little sign on his desk. One day Gale asked him what they meant. Easton replied, “The Lord is first, my friends are second, and I am third.” From that day on, Gale made those words his own philosophy of life.
In his second year with the Bears, Gale decided he wanted to wear something meaningful around his neck, like a religious medal. So he bought a gold medal and had the words I Am Third engraved on it. In his autobiography Gale says, “I try to live by the saying on my medal. I don’t always succeed, but having the saying around my neck keeps me from staying from it too far.”
The story of Gale Sayers illustrates the readings as well as celebration of Blue Mass. We are celebrating Blue Mass to honor and pray for all active, retired, and deceased law enforcement officers, firefighters, and emergency medical personal. We also remember in a special way all those who died on September 11, 2001, all those who did heroic action to save lives and pray for them.
As we remember September 11, 2001, let us try to imagine we were on the ground running to save our lives or running to someone else. What will be our mental and emotional condition? It is hard to explain, isn’t it? It is about call, it is about commitment.
This weekends reading Jesus talks about commitment. He says: “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” Are we supposed to love or hate? The Lord is not telling us to ignore the Fourth commandment, Honor your father and mother. Nor is He telling us to refuse to see God in others. And He is not telling us to ignore God’s handwork in our own lives. He illustrates the demands of being His disciples. The discipleship demands true commitment to the duties entrusted to us. Maybe we don’t want to leave the security of our home, parents, or comfort of life. The commitment demands sacrifices. We suppose to help one another to face the challenges.
I am almost certain that many of you have stories from your childhood of how you had imagined yourself becoming a police officer, a firefighter, or a medical technician. I remember, when I walk into the daycare, they try to dress-up like policemen, firefighters, doctors or nurses. They like to dress up in the uniforms and act out various make-believe adventures.
Blue Mass is an opportunity to express our gratitude to all those who decide to dress up for our safety, members of the public safety community for their sacrifices and love. As a Price County Law Enforcement Chaplain, I have the privilege to witness many of their sacrifices, and listen to their stories. They are willing to stand between us and all the violence. They’re out there selflessly to serve others. They don’t do it for the honor. We all should say THANK YOU for their commitment!