26th Sunday in Ordinary Time-C
September 29, 2019
Weekend One: Introduction to Stewardship Renewal
Amos 6: 1a, 4-7
1 Timothy 6: 11-16
Luke 16: 19-31
This weekend we begin our Annual Stewardship Renewal with its theme, “Formed in the Heart.”
Didn’t we just do this? Yes we did, exactly one year ago.
Why do we do this every year? Because we remember things that are important to us every year, like birthdays and anniversaries. They deserve our notice.
As a steward of God’s bountiful blessings, I acknowledge that all that I have is a gift from God: my very life itself, my time, my talents and my treasure. God wants me to receive these gifts from Him gratefully, to develop them with an increase and, because of my gratitude, to share them generously with others, so that each person gives as they have been blessed and each person receives as they need.
Stewardship as a way of life is all about becoming even better disciples of Jesus: being “Formed in the Heart” by Him and being ready to say “yes” to Him as we notice opportunities before us.
This week you will be receiving a stewardship packet in the mail. It contains: (1) a letter from me; (2) a “Ministries Catalog” which describes each of the current ministries in our Saint Joseph and Nativity Parishes as well as listing a contact person; most of the ministries are available for members of both of our parishes to participate in; (3) and a “2019 Commitment Card” specially marked for each parish that enables each household to check off ministry involvements that they would like to renew for another year or that they would like to join for one year.
If your stewardship packet does not arrive this week, please let us know in the parish offices because we want every household to have one.
Next weekend, 5-6 October, at all the Masses I will offer a very short homily and it will be followed by a fellow parishioner who will give a witness talk about how they are implementing stewardship more fully in their personal lives.
Also next weekend, you are invited and encouraged to come to our Ministries Fairs which will be held after each Mass in Saint Joseph School Gymnasium and in Nativity Social Hall. Our ministry leaders will be there to answer questions you might have. There will be no sign-ups at the Ministry Fairs, no pressure to join. Just a chance to find out more about ministries here in our parishes.
The following weekend, 12-13 October, is our annual Commitment Sunday. You will be asked to bring your completed commitment cards to Mass with your one-year commitments of your time, talent and treasure. And we will place them in the Offertory basket together.
And now a little reflection on today’s Gospel.
I am going to begin with a little quiz about two items made of glass. If you look in a mirror, what do you see? Yourself, of course. But if you look through a window, what might you see? Other people and opportunities out there.
Some people care only about themselves. They are “mirror people.” Other people care about other people. They are “window people.” And this sounds like the story 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 [William Barclay] 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. Notice how Jesus describes the first one: “There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen.” What does this 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 this all about?
In Jesus’ time, people didn’t use knives and forks and spoons and napkins. They ate with their hands. There were chunks of bread on the table that they would use to wipe their hands. Then they would throw those scraps down to the family pets. Those scraps were what the poor man Lazarus longed to eat.
This is the only parable that Jesus told 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 Lazarus 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 removed from his porch or that he did cruel things to him.
So why was the rich man condemned? For the good that he could have done but failed to do: his were sins not of commission but of omission. It is the story of “The Punishment of the Man Who Failed to Notice.” He was a “mirror person,” totally absorbed with himself.
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 cold. And they ask her, “Lady, do you have any old newspapers?” They were poor and 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 into 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 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 gratefully take the time to notice – by being, not “mirror people,” but “window people” who look beyond ourselves to look out for others.
Happy Annual Stewardship Renewal, fellow disciples of Jesus, being “Formed in the Heart,” and fellow grateful stewards of God’s awesome and bountiful blessings!