Homily for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
In my teenager days, I had difficulty finding things… like clean clothes, in my closet. Almost always, I’d be asking/shouting downstairs to my mother for a favourite shirt or pair of jeans. And it would go like this… “They’re in your closet…” “I can’t find them…” “Well, keep looking…” Eventually, without batting an eye, she’d stick her hand in the closet and pull out whatever I was looking for!! With amazement, I’d say, “How do you do that!!?” She would conclude, “they were right where I told you… under your nose!!”
There are times when we cannot see the things that are right under our nose! I think it’s safe to say that we all have spent time looking for something such as wallet, keys or glasses…only to discover later that it was ‘right in front of us…under our nose…’ “I couldn’t see it for looking!” It is embarrassing to when we don’t see things in front of us. Sometimes it takes someone else to point it out to us… that what we cannot see! And there are times that we do see what we don’t want to but chose not to acknowledge it… we keep it distant, out there, as far away from us as we can. Unfortunately, we act as the rich man does towards Lazarus. Remember Jesus tells us where Lazarus is in this story… he wasn’t in the marketplace, on the rich man’s way to work. He wasn’t on the side of the road, easily ignored. No, Jesus tells us that Lazarus was laying at the rich mans door! In order to the rich man to leave his home, he would have had to step over Lazarus. There’s no doubt that Lazarus probably smelled, the passage says that he attracted dogs-so the rich man would have known the condition of this man.
And yet the rich man does nothing. He chooses not to get involved… he chooses not to see! And we heard how the story ended… very good for Lazarus but not good for the rich man. What about us? It doesn’t take much to see that there are many Lazarus’ in our world… many people lying at our own doors crying out for their lives, desperate that someone will see them. I was shocked to learn that globally, the United Nations reports that there are 70 million people living as refugees in our world, removed from their homes either by violence or poverty. With no home, they are fighting to survive!
On a local level, we have many people living in tents, people are hungry and desperate. No doubt some have left because of rising costs of apartments, food, interest rates… or perhaps they have left because abusive homes or from other situations that we would never put up with. And yet, there they are right in front of us! I wonder, how many cross the street so that they don’t have to bother with ‘them.’ How many turn their heads or pick up a cell phone in order not to make eye contact. Or how many have rushed into a restaurant before a homeless person approaches them for money for food?
What if there was a Lazarus laying at our front door or back door or the door that we use the most? Wouldn’t we do something about it? But as long as their not on our property we don’t have to be bothered. And yet we continue to step over them. The example of Lazarus is not just a story, but a living reality for so many people in our world, in our communities, maybe even our families. Lazarus is in desperate need. We all encounter people who struggle: depression, financial crisis, or perhaps a less obvious problem: a neighbour who is lonely, a coworker who is having a rough day. Lazarus is all around us, many times right in front of us.
Pope Francis continues to remind us that as Christians, we can no longer ignore them. Jesus calls us to see the Lazarus’ of our world, to care for them, to treat them with dignity, because the poor are blessed. He tells us that in the Beatitudes, just as he shows us in this Gospel today. In short, Jesus can identify with the poor in it’s many forms. And we need to as well!
Almost 15 years ago, while working in Fredericton, I was asked to be chaplain at STU. So I am always interested in what is happening there. The current chaplain was at a meeting that I was at this past week. He was sharing with me that the students at STU, part of campus ministry are helping street people get their GED… there is a team who meets with them at different locations around the city of Fredericton. A need was met and addressed… these Lazarus’ are being cared for, by young people helping to lift them out of poverty. In our own parish we continue to donate and to make soup for Avenue B, collect school supplies, and so on. But there is always more that can be done.
So the challenge for us today is to see the Lazarus’ who lay at our door… at all times, not just as a parish event. Constantly we need to recognize Jesus in them with our hearts. We need to stop stepping over them and professing… ‘that’s not my problem.’ My dear friends, “may we continue to pray for eyes to see, ears to hear, and the heart to love every Lazarus that comes to our door because it’s not just Lazarus laying at our door… but Jesus living among us waiting to be served. AMEN.