Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Rich Man and Lazarus - A Reflection

This is a reflection of Sunday's readings - September 26, 2010.
Amos 6:1a, 4-7 – Psalm 146 – Timothy 6:11-16 – Luke 16:19-31

On September 22nd, the Archdiocese of Newark, NJ, and the world, lost a very special and holy priest. Fr. Antonio Bico went home to God. He was only 43 years old. Suffering for years with liver disease, he needed a transplant – but time did not allow. I knew Fr.Bico from his years of celebrating Holy Mass at the Missionary of Charity convent in Newark. He was there before 7am – every Saturday morning. He celebrated Holy Mass with so much love. When the MC sisters needed him to dispense the sacraments – he was there. At Christmas time he would come with his friends, and his accordion – and entertain the local children. He would move through the soup kitchen – speaking to those who had no one to speak to. Of course, he did much more that that.

Yesterday I attended the viewing and memorial Mass which took place at Our Lady of Fatima Parish in the Ironbound section of Newark. Between the viewing and the Mass – there had to be thousands of people who came to pay their respects. At one point the line outside the Church was five blocks long. I personally have never experienced anything like this. I had seen pictures in books of the long lines for the funeral of Fr. Solanus Casey – and I had watched the funeral Mass of The Great John Paul on television. So many people gathered together to say goodbye to this young priest. He touched so many people. Fr. Tony was a true servant of God..

The readings give us a clue as to why Fr. Tony was loved by so many. - let us begin with the prophet Amos, sometimes called the prophet of Divine Judgment.” Amos expresses his grief for Israel. After a long war, Israel achieved victory and reaped the rewards. The people were enjoying beds of ivory; they lied down on couches, and drank the best wine. They anointed themselves with the finest oils. This new material world they were living in became for them a “false god.” Becoming complacent – they did not live up to their moral and religious demands – and they were marked by a heartless unconcern for the suffering and the oppressed. Amos says they will be the first to go into exile. They are dooming themselves. Their complacency will have dire consequences.

The Psalmist begins with an important statement. “Blessed is he who keeps faith forever, secures justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry.” The message does not get any clearer than this. We will be blessed – highly favored by God – for loving and caring for the poor. This is how we will build up the Kingdom of God here on earth in a very real way.

In the second reading, Paul directs Timothy “and us” what we should do to attain eternal life - “Pursue righteousness, that is right-standing before God - good works will get us there – devotion (prayer) – faith (live your Christian Hope – and let the world see it). – Love (as God loves).

In the Gospel reading, Jesus offers a parable that is different from all others. This is the ONLY parable where Jesus mentions someones name. And that name is Lazarus. Who is Lazarus? He is the poorest of the poor. He is the homeless, he is the disenfranchised, he is the illegal immigrant, he is the sick, he is the lonely, and he is the unborn. Yes – Lazarus has a name - a God given dignity - he is made in the image of God and loved by God.

The rich man – he wears expensive purple garments, he eats well. Outside his door is a poor man named Lazarus. And how poor he is – covered with sores, lying all day on the hot dusty ground – day after day – just waiting for someone to offer him a little bit of food, hoping for the scraps off the rich mans table.

Lazarus and the rich man die. Lazarus is gone to the bosom of Abraham -heaven. The rich man– now suffers in hell. He asks Abraham to have Lazarus dip his finger in water, to cool his tongue, as he is in the ETERNAL FIRE. But Abraham explains that this is not possible. There is a chasm that separates the rich man and Lazarus. It prevents anyone from crossing. Now what did the rich man do to get himself into Hell? It was not the good living, the fine foods, the expensive clothes – it was only one thing – “HIS UNCONCERN FOR THE POOR.” And for that he will be in Hell forever. Don’t let anyone tell you that Hell does not exist – it does. The Church teaches that: Demons, and men who die in the state of mortal sin, suffer eternal punishment in Hell. suffering the pain of loss; the pain of sense – suffering the same pain that was inflicted on others, “where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.”

The young priest who offered the homily at Fr. Tony's memorial Mass said that Fr. Tony had BIG EYES. Everywhere he turned, he saw the poor, the hungry, and the oppressed. He not only had pity on them – he had compassion. He was a man of action. He did all he could do to relieve them of their suffering. And all those who came and grieved knew he was a holy man – for they saw all his good works.

Do we have BIG EYES? Do we see the suffering happening all around us? Are we being compassionate? Let us remember the well known words of Jesus – the words that Blessed Mother Teresa took to her heart “What you have done for the least of my brothers, you have done it to me.”

Brothers and Sisters, let us not be complacent – let US live out all those good virtues that Paul mentioned to Timothy - righteousness, devotion, faith, Love - so that we may be able to attain that heavenly goal.

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