Fr. Tim’s Homily for September 25th, 2016

Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time-C


Amos 6: 1a, 4-7

1 Timothy 6: 11-16

Luke 16: 19-31


There is a story that is entitled, “Grandfather’s Corner.”  It is about a grandfather who came to live with his son and daughter-in-law and their children.  Grandpa didn’t see or hear so well anymore.  Sometimes he would make some unusual noises at the dinner table.  And every once in a while he would knock one of the dishes off the table and it would break.

So Grandpa was given his own place, all by himself, in the kitchen corner.  And he ate out of a wooden bowl that wouldn’t break if it hit the floor.

One day the father of the family saw his son in the workshop, making something with the wood and the tools.  He asked, “What are you making?”  The boy replied, “I’m building a trough so that when I’m grown-up and you and mom are old, you can eat out of it.”

That very evening, Grandpa was restored to his rightful place at the family table and was treated with all-due kindness and respect.

I suspect that we have all had moments in our lives when our eyes were suddenly opened in horror as we saw how dreadful something was that we either did or that we failed to do.

That is the gist of the parable that Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel, which is often called “The Rich Man and Lazarus.”  Or, for those of you who are about my age and older, you may remember it being called “The Parable of Dives and Lazarus.  “Dives” is the Latin word for “the rich man.”

Someone else has entitled this story “The Punishment of the Man Who Failed to Notice.”   And this parable is packed with meaning and with feeling.

There are two characters:  the first one is a rich man, and notice how Jesus describes him:  “There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen.”  What did that mean?

In the Jewish Temple, when the High Priest was going to offer sacrifice on one of the High Holy Days, he wore purple garments and fine linen.  This rich man wore purple garments and fine linen all the time.

And the story goes on:  Jesus says that this rich man “dined sumptuously.”  What an expression – “dined sumptuously.”  In other words, he ate gourmet.  And then Jesus adds that he “dined sumptuously every day.”

Contrast that with the common folk in Jesus’ day – they were lucky to eat meat once a week.

And so here is the rich man, dressed in purple garments and fine linen, and dining sumptuously every day.

The story then introduces the second character:  “At his door was a poor man named Lazarus … who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table.”  What is that all about?

In Jesus’ times, people didn’t use knives and forks and spoons and napkins.  They ate with their hands.  On the table would have been chunks of homemade bread that they would use to wipe their hands.  Then they would throw those scraps from the table down to the family pets.  Those scraps were what the poor man Lazarus longed to eat.

This is the only parable that Jesus told in all of the Gospels where one of the characters is given a name:  “Lazarus,” which means “God is my help.”  He was poor, he was hungry, he was ignored and his body was covered with sores.  But he knew that God was his help.

And then the story says that they both died, and Lazarus the poor man went to heaven and was with Father Abraham.  The rich man went to hell, and was being tormented by the flames.

What was the sin of the rich man?  The story doesn’t say that he had Lazarus forcibly removed from his porch or that he deliberately did cruel things to him.

So why was the rich man condemned?  For the good that he could have done, and failed to do:  his were sins not of commission but of omission.  It is the story of “the punishment of the man who never noticed.”

A woman wrote a story called, “How Rich I Am.”  She describes a knock at the door and finds two children outside, a brother and a sister.  It is raining and it is cold.  And they ask her, “Lady, do you have any old newspapers?”  They were collecting them and selling them for a few cents on the pound.

She was ready to not be bothered and just say no – when she noticed their wet shoes.  It was cold outside, so she invited them in.  She sat them down by the fireplace to warm up and she served them hot cocoa and some fresh chocolate chip cookies.  And then she gathered up her old newspapers.

When she came back in the room, she saw the little girl looking at the cup and the saucer.  And the little boy asked, “Lady, are you rich?”  “Oh, heavens no!” she said as she looked around at all of the slip-covered furniture in her living room.  And the little girl said, “But lady, this cup and saucer – they match!”

When the children left, she was in the kitchen washing those cups and saucers.  And she noticed that they were pretty plain, but they DID match.

She went over to the stove and checked on the potatoes and stirred the gravy and thought to herself:  “How rich I am!  I’ve got potatoes and gravy on the stove and a roast with carrots and onions in the oven.  I’ve got a roof over my head.  I’ve got a husband who loves me and we have great kids.

“The unexpected visit of those two children reminded me just how rich I am and how much I have to share.”

And so are we, and so do we – if we regularly and thankfully take the time to notice.