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Contents: Volume 2 - 26th Sunday - C
September 25, 2022

 

  The

26th

SUNDAY

 (C)

 

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Dennis Keller with Charlie

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. –

5. --(Your reflection can be here!)

 

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Sun. 26 C 2022

Our readings beg the questions about how well are we living our lives and by Whose standards? Do we live in the modern version of wanton revelry comparable to the selection from the book of Amos? Are we more like the child of God that the excerpt from the Letter of Timothy encourages us to be? Are we oblivious to the needs of those around us like the rich man who ignores Lazarus in Jesus's Gospel parable?

Life gets busy. Life gets hectic. Sometimes life feels close to chaotic or overwhelming. Eternal life is, well, eternal. How can we listen to, truly listen and embrace, the charge from the second reading to keep the commandments as well as maintain the intent of the road map we are given throughout Scripture?

What will it take? Really, what will it take to follow Jesus and be an authentic Christian, even in the midst of life's trials? Certainly prayer is on that list, but what else?

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Twenty Sixth Sunday of Ordered Time September 25, 2022

Amos 6:1 & 4-7; Responsorial Psalm 146; 1st Timothy 6:11-16; Gospel Acclamation 2nd Corinthians 8:9; Luke 16:19-31

In the public confession of faults, the ritual we complete to prepare our participation in liturgies of Word and Eucharist, there is a listing of how faults are committed: "in my thoughts, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do." The "in my thoughts" part is sometimes risky – did I really consent to that thought or was it a passing windstorm that found no place in my heart? Did I enjoy the thought or merely see it and thought to enjoy it but turned away before commitment? That’s always a tough one. The faults we do is easier understood. Really? What are the circumstances about what we do? Did we realize it’s evil and still pursue it? Did we not recognize its badness? This is not easily handled either. It takes training, understanding, and wisdom to discern the bad in what seems good. If there were no good in the deed, the thought, it would not appeal to us. Discernment takes education AND practice. Both discernment and practice take consciousness.

It’s that last source of faults concerning us this Sunday. Amos is at it again this Sunday, a second time. He’s still speaking to the Northern Kingdom. This is before Assyria came along and destroyed the nation. That spun off nation is a hub of prosperity and wealth. The rich are becoming richer. Last Sunday’s reading informed of that condition. The poor are bought and sold for a pair of cheap sandals. The working class can easily be bought mind and body, spirit, and talent for a little silver. This Sunday Amos paints an even more condemning picture of the rich. They lay on beds made of ivory, eating lambs, the potential breeding stock of the flock, and slaughter for their delight calves groomed to be veal cutlets. They have the leisure time to play the harp and devise their own songs. They have the poor to clean, organize, and maintain their properties. The talented working class are chefs, administers, and nannies for their children. They drink wine from bowls like do the pagan, wealthy Greeks. They protect their skin from wind, blown dust, and from the harsh rays of the Middle Eastern sun with fragrant, imported oils. They’ve got it made. Living and working conditions for the poor, for skilled workers do not concern them. They choose to be unaware that working conditions, living conditions for those families are potentially harmful.

Amos’ prophecies are the poster-child for social justice. The conditions in the Northern Kingdom are in effect an oppressive social pyramid constructed by the powerful and wealthy. The poor are victimized by predatory rich. The system conserves the power and wealth of those at the top of the pyramid which enslaving those in the lower levels. Class inequities are about to bring on drastic consequences for the nation. This despite the God-initiated covenant of the Chosen People. For in that covenant there was no possibility of class distinction. That covenant of faith in one God created for the first time in all nations the concept of the brotherhood of all the Israelites. The lesson for these Chosen springs from that God-driven covenant. Any nation can have a true covenantal relationship with the Trinity only when that people deals justly with one another. That concept, that practice of faith, remains true even these many centuries later. This is not removed by the new Covenant in the Blood of Jesus.

Amos tells of the Northern Kingdom’s future. The Assyrian empire lusts after the wealth and geography of that kingdom because of busy trade routes and sea coast safe harbors. They come and conquer this nation fragmented by the class distinctions imposed by the powerful and wealthy. That corruption cut the heart out of the nation and left them vulnerable to attack and defeat. The Northern Kingdom loses its identity as among the tribes of the Covenant. Instead, they become Samaria, a polyglot nation made up of imported exiles from five other Assyrian conquered nations. Only the very poor are left behind being considered worthless and lacking the intelligence and social skills to mount a rebellion. This terrible condition came to this once wealthy and powerful nation because they forgot the admonition of Moses and his successor. They were to care for widows and orphans and aliens in their midst. This group of three needy persons made up the lowest class in the Northern Kingdom, persons without resources or the means and education to acquire them. We may want to look at this story as a cautionary tale.

The parable Jesus tells is unusual. In this parable Jesus names the poor man at overlooked at the gate of a nameless rich man. We have come to call the rich man Dives, Latin for "rich." That name is not in the parable but added over centuries of hearing this story. When Jesus names the poor man and not the rich is meant to show the value of this poor person in God’s eyes. That’s the first lesson from this parable. Every person, whether rich or poor, healthy or ill, educated or ignorant, recognized by society with the right to vote or denied status in the state, employed or on welfare – it makes no difference to God’s valuing each person, ensuring them dignity and worth. No matter the state of mental health, no matter whether productive citizens or shadow people we barely see – each person is in the image and likeness of God. Dishonoring, failing to recognize and treat any person with respect is an affront to the image and likeness of God in a person. The name Lazarus is the Latinized form of the name Eleazar. That name means "God is my help." It seems Jesus tells us Lazarus was so unfortunate and so uncared about that only God could help him.

The story Jesus tells condemns Dives. He is so blinded by his own wealth that he doesn’t recognize Lazarus as a human being in need. Dives knows he’s there. As a matter of fact, the bread his guests use to wipe their hands of the oil and bits of food is thrown to him – well not to him but to dogs who lick the ulcerous sores of Lazarus. Lazarus would even relish those scraps of bread, but it seems the dogs were the recipients of those crusts of bread.

Eating utensils we’re accustomed to weren’t part of eating in the time of Jesus. Diners ate with their hands. Dives was accustomed to feasting every day. His wealth allowed him to call in friends and people he wished to influence. It was no problem for him to have meat each day. Most working families could afford meat once a week if the husband was lucky enough to find daily work. In his excess of wealth, Dives could easily overlook Lazarus, the ill beggar who sat at his gate. It wasn’t that he hated Lazarus. It was just that Lazarus was a non-person to Dives. Dives was dressed in purple and linens, the typical clothing of the high priests. In this simple statement Jesus connects the High Priests with Dives in their failure to notice the poor and sick among the people they were to serve. Here is our second lesson.

The persons in Jesus’ parable are the guests of Dives. It is unlikely he’d have such a sumptuous feast without inviting others. They are not even mentioned, not recognized in this story. They too share in Dives failure to notice.

What in this parable applies to us? An example of what’s happened in our time might help. When the interstate highway systems and circle freeways laid out, it seems the routes chosen were part of an urban renewal. More often than not, those roadways were routed through lower income, racially discriminated areas of cities. Perhaps there were efforts at funded relocation and low income housing to serve the displaced. I don’t remember reading that. Social scientists at that time wrote to make citizens aware of the impact on persons who could least afford to relocate. One author pointed out that such roadways were often elevated or fenced off from the residential and business areas of the poor and people of color. It was just a way, that author wrote, of putting poverty and discrimination out of the sight and consciousness of commuters. Those freeways often divided communities, destroying unity among poorer persons. Retail businesses lost access to their customer base.

The question we should be asking in policy, construction, zoning, and social engineering is "how will this affect the poor?" We’ve not done very well in this regard. It keeps those people, like Lazarus, outside the gate suffering from lack of health care, from opportunities for quality education, from fair prices in retail groceries and convenience stores. Typically, major retailers avoid providing retail opportunities in poor neighborhoods, depriving them of fresh produce and other foods at comparable prices with wealthy neighborhoods.

Are we Dives? Do we avoid contact with those in a lower economic strata? Do we allow financial decisions to steer financial assets only to wealthy neighbors to the detriment of poorer neighborhoods?

If wealth and power are gods we worship, how will we ever be able to face the true, living God when we leave this world? We can expect to receive God’s mercy, compassion, and loving kindness to the extent we were merciful and compassionate to humanity of any social status. The message of the Cross is that God commits his son to demonstrating this mercy, compassion, and loving kindness. That takes awareness: that takes taking the blinders off: that means cleaning out hearts of prejudice: that requires us to search for the image and likeness of our Source, our Creator in every person we encounter.

Dennis Keller with Charlie dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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INDIFFERENCE AND NEGLECT: 26th SUNDAY YEAR C

Amos 6:1-7; 1 Timothy 6:11-16; Luke 16:19-31

What did Jesus do when he was on earth? This question is often asked. The usual answer is that he preached, that he taught, and that he healed. What is often overlooked is that, more than anything else, Jesus mixed with people. He listened to them, talked with them, and shared their lives. Often, he ate and drank with them. Meals were one of the main ways Jesus loved and served people. They still are, for Sunday by Sunday he continues to meet us in our sacred meal of bread and wine.

We live in a time of 'fast foods', an age of 'take-away'. Too often meals are reduced to a kind of 'bun on the run' taken in front of the TV, a kind of 'gobble and go’. We may therefore forget the truth that there is more to a meal in the best sense of the word than mere feeding. Ideally, a meal is meant to be something sacred, a sharing not only of food but also of lives, a sharing that includes welcome, hospitality, and conversation. Ideally, a meal is a sacrament, i.e., a sign and means of God's love, a love shared among people who welcome and treat one another as brothers and sisters, and not simply as fellow human beings.

The story which Jesus told about an unnamed rich man feasting lavishly every day, and about a poor, hungry, broken-down beggar called Lazarus, who lay at the rich man's door, is a sharp criticism. It’s a sharp criticism of those attitudes and behaviour which not only destroy the meaning of a meal but also deeply offend God. For our God is a God who intends that we should share with those in need all the good things that God has shared with us.

At the time of Jesus, Jewish people were taught that any land and any other possessions were not completely theirs, to do with as they pleased. They were meant to regard them as on loan from God and to pay God rent for them, so to speak, by sharing their wealth with the poor and needy persons around them. Unless we realize this, we might be tempted to go easier on the rich man than did Jesus. We might be inclined to see him as just another victim of conspicuous consumption or as a kind of harmless playboy getting his kicks from a good table.

So, we must engage in a bit of ‘unpacking’ the evil that Jesus saw in the rich man and the good that he saw in the poor one. The attitude of the rich man is that of the Miller of the Dee: 'I care for no one, and no one cares for me.' Although he kids himself that his wealth is a sign that he is pleasing to God, his real god is pleasure. When it comes to food especially, he lives for one thing only - to dress up in the finest clothes and to dine daily on the best dishes, the choicest cocktails, and the finest wines, that money can buy. For money and pleasure are his gods, his be-all and end-all.

The flip side of his selfishness and self-indulgence is his behaviour towards Lazarus. It's not that he is actively brutal and cruel to the poor man. It's not that he kicks the poor man away from his door. The problem is his complete indifference to and complete neglect of, Lazarus. So engrossed is the rich man in his world of self-indulgence, that he does not even notice Lazarus, broken down on his doorstep. He does not notice that Lazarus is hungry for even a few scraps of the bread that his rich guests use to mop up their plates. In short, the rich man ignores the poor man at his door.

Lazarus, on the other hand, accepts the bitterness and pain of his situation, without one word of complaint against God, and without one word of resentment and hate for the rich man. He does not let his sufferings drive him away from God, nor dim his hope that in some real way things are going to get better.

There is a wise saying: 'As one lives, so one dies; and as one dies, so one stays.' It's not that God sends anyone to hell. It's just that those who live loveless lives find themselves at the end without love and without God as the source of love. That’s what hell is - a selfish and loveless existence.

So it is with the rich man. He who has lived independently and never needed to ask anyone for anything now experiences such misery that he has to beg for help if only a drop of water for his parched throat. And he has to beg it from Lazarus, the beggar man whom he ignored.

On the other hand, Lazarus is now enjoying the company of true and faithful believers. He is enjoying the happiness promised by Jesus to the poor and needy who never lose their trust in God: 'Happy are you poor; the kingdom of God is yours' (Lk 6:10)

Where does this powerful story leave you and me? For a start, it's a story that goes to the heart of one of our deepest longings, the longing to belong. The writer, Henri Nouwen, often spoke of the value of hospitality, which he defined as making enough space for the stranger in our midst to come into our lives and become our friend. So, the story Jesus told raises the question: 'To whom do we belong?' Are the only people in our lives that matter to us, our friends, our family, and our other relatives? Or does our sense of hospitality take us further?

The story Jesus told raises a somewhat connected question: 'Who is my neighbour?' Are we honestly convinced of the truth that at any time my neighbour is the person who needs me now, the person at my door, the person who needs me right there and then? Is my neighbour, in fact, the Lazarus I would rather not notice, the Lazarus I would even like to shoo out of my life because I find her or him a wasted space, a pain, a nuisance, a burden? Does our neighbour include those desperate asylum seekers now knocking on the door of our rich nation for deliverance from the oppression, persecution, and death threats they are fleeing?

This powerful story of the rich man and Lazarus raises yet another question, this one to us as a group, as a ‘church': 'What kind of church community are we? Do we especially welcome among us those who are in any way poor, crippled, blind, or lame? Are we good news to them? Do we give them meaning, hope, and a sense of belonging? At our shared table of the Lord, do we help them feel wanted, loved, cared for, supported, and healed? Or do we perhaps just come and go, and simply ignore who, what, and where they are? Do you and I do this? Really and truly, do we?'

"Brian Gleeson CP" <bgleesoncp@gmail.com>

 

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