29 September 2013 – Twenty-sixth Sunday In Ordinary Time


Luke 16: 19 – 31

Jesus said to the Pharisees:
“There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen
and dined sumptuously each day.
And laying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores,
who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps
that fell from the rich man’s table.
Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.
When the poor man died,
he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. 
The rich man also died and was buried,
and from the netherworld, where he was in torment,
he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off
and Lazarus at his side.
And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me. 
Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue,
for I am suffering torment in these flames.’
Abraham replied,
‘My child, remember that you received
what was good during your lifetime 
while Lazarus likewise received what was bad;
but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented.
Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established
to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go
from our side to yours or from your side to ours.’
He said, ‘Then I beg you, father,
send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers,
so that he may warn them,
lest they too come to this place of torment.’
But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets.
Let them listen to them.’
He said, ‘Oh no, father Abraham,
but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
Then Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, 
neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.'”


“Love makes high-maintenance things, low-maintenance”

Our faithfulness will become very high-maintenance” for everyone whose love for God is not fueled by God. And usually, we find high-maintenance things painful, and we tend to avoid pain. But we love, love.

Love does not let up. Love never ceases, not God’s love for us nor our love for God. If they are sincere, neither let’s up. His love (His desire for us, His discipline of us, the outpouring of Himself to us, His presence in us), His love does not wane. What about ours for Him. Once we taste God’s love and Truth, our faithfulness toward God competes well against being unfaithful toward God. Our mutual love makes the relationship easy and very basic. Love makes faithfulness low-maintenance.

Once I “know” Jesus, my faithfulness to Him in Sunday and Holy-Day worship, my love for all the Sacraments, my boldness in the moral truth, all of these become less “high-maintenance”. It’s just like any beautiful friendship in our lives or like the love for our spouse in our lives. Because love is the fire, these relationships are not merely high-maintenance, though work is always required in any good friendship. Mutual love becomes the agent which unites and makes us more fully human.

Our Sunday readings point to the deadly eternal results of having no real love for God and the consequent difficulty (impossibility) of maintaining a “high-maintenance” spirituality. There is a heavenly reward for the beggar Lazarus and eternal hell enjoyed by the rich man who chose it. Their destinies speak volumes. Not the difference in their earthly status, but the difference in their spirituality put the un-crossable abyss between them forever, Lazarus in glory and the man of spiritual failure in hell. The rich man in today’s parable, like the rich man in last week’s parable, lacks authentic love and substitutes his wealth for it. And so we end up with deadly damnation in both cases. Instead, St. Paul writes to Timothy, “Pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness” (1 Tim 6:11). This sounds too hard to do. And it is too hard without a love for God burning in me, this spiritual pursuit, this recipe is going to be very high-maintenance, and I will substitute something else or someone else for God.

Theses spiritual elements St. Paul highlights are what make a person a human being. And, without them, we are somehow much less human. Take this rich man in today’s parable, for example: It is not human to disregard a dying, sore-covered beggar laying at our door. It is not human to put our hope for salvation in physical stuff or people. It is not human to nurture a selfish mentality and a lifeless soul which blind us to what’s real and holy. The man who would trip over Lazarus and spit on him was much less than a human being; he lacked a Godly love and, therefore, was unable to maintain the demands which make us human. Notice, however, that, from hell, this rich man begins to see the lack of humanity which filled him as he lived. He even begs, across the wide abyss, “I beg you, father send him to my Father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, less they too come to this place of torment.” (Lk 16: 27—29). That Abraham send a message from heaven to the man’s five selfish brothers was a very human request. It looks like the rich man has finally become concerned about others, though too late.

When folks, young or old, approach their faith lives as though they are tasks to be done or obligations to be met or boxes to be checked, now we have a dilemma. Our faith lives  become very high-maintenance because there’s no mutual love. God’s boundless love for us is met by our rather shallow response. On our part, we now call being faithful in worship and in living, something that is burdensome, something annoying, painful, some kind of intrusion into our personal time and choice and program for our lives. Yet, in truth, our very lives are not our own. We can consult God’s word today from Amos or St. Paul to Timothy or St. Luke for some community support.