September 29, 2019 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time Fr Ardel Barta

Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 AM 6:1A, 4-7 

Responsorial Psalm PS 146:7, 8-9, 9-10

  1. (1b) Praise the Lord, my soul!

Reading 2 1 TM 6:11-16

Alleluia CF. 2 COR 8:9

  1. Alleluia, alleluia.
    Though our Lord Jesus Christ was rich, he became poor,
    so that by his poverty you might become rich.

Gospel LK 16:19-31

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26th Sunday in Ordinary time   

    Fifty years or so ago Bishop Sheen came to Dubuque to give a speech. He told a story about making a visit to a leper colony. He had brought medals to give to each of them. After speaking to them he invited them to come forth to receive the medals. As they reached up with their infected hands he would drop a medal into their hands. Suddenly he realized what he was doing. From then on instead of dropping the medal into their hands he would clasp their hands in his and would feel their infection run down his fingers. Only then did he say that he realized he loved them. 

     In the gospel it is not what the rich man did to Lazuras. He didn’t do anything bad to him. It is that he was not aware of him, not compassionate, (which means to suffer with,) unwilling to enter his life. 

      Jesus was harder on the rich man.  (It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.) The more we have the more we turn in to our selves. The more comfortable we are the more difficult it is to leave our comfort zone, to reach out to someone else. We become complacent with the poor. Our relationship with the poor is integrally related to our relationship with God. 

      In our second reading, Paul advises we should compete well for the faith, which means to engage in the struggle for faith in the world in which we find   ourselves. The challenge for me is that I am very comfortable. I don’t know about a bed of ivory as spoken of in Amos, but my bed is very comfortable, my living quarters are comfortable, and I am very well taken care of. When one is comfortable it is hard to reach out and to enter the lives of the poor. Like Bishop Sheen recognized, we can just drop an envelope in the basket, or put a check in the envelope and put it in the mail. By doing so does that mean we will have to miss that game of golf  today or a movie this evening? No! Probably not!  

     Now we are about to receive the Eucharist. Eucharist means thanksgiving. We are giving thanks to Jesus for saving us. How did He save us? He didn’t consider being God something to be grasped. He emptied himself and took upon Himself our human condition. He suffered with us, He died with us, He shared our poverty.  That is LOVE. That’s how he saved us, by loving us. We are going to make present that tremendous act of love he did for us in a few moments. When we receive Holy Communion we will be inviting His spirit into our hearts. It can enable us to love like He does, to let go of ourselves, and to identify with the poor. 

     The problem…who are the poor with whom we should identify, whose lives we should enter?  We can give money to Catholic Relief Services. They help out the poor around the world and it isn’t practical for us to go to other countries or down to the southern border to experience the hardships. But we should accompany our monetary gift by fasting, by foregoing something that we hunger for in order to join in solidarity with those who hunger for many things. 

      However, there are the poor in our midst whose lives we can enter. They are the bullied, those who are picked on, those who are socially unable to communicate with people, those who are lonely who need to be paid attention to, or those we gossip about. After all when we gossip are we probably telling the truth about someone, we’re talking about their poverty. How can we enter their lives without talking about them? 

   Think about it…..who are the poor into whose lives we can enter? Hopefully as we live our faith as Paul urges, we can close the gap between us and the poor and the gap between the nether world and heaven. Then we can all enter into the bosom of Abraham.