Homily For 26th Sunday:
COMPLACENCY ATTRACTS GOD’S PUNISHMENT
The readings of this Sunday are a continuation of last Sunday’s. The parable of the rich man and Lazarus raises some critical questions, both eschatological and immediate. Firstly, is being rich a condition for going to hell and being poor to heaven? Was Jesus opposed to material possessions and in favour of utter wretchedness? And finally, are the rich responsible and therefore deserving punishment for the poverty of the poor? Some of these considerations run antithetical to the teachings of some modern pastors that poverty is a curse, and that the children of a rich God must be rich. Which is then correct? The parables of Jesus about the rich in the gospel of Luke runs on the dual motif of expressing the need for hospitality and casting the great divide between God and money (mammon). Note the words of Luke 16:13:
“No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” And verse 14 says, the Pharisees WHO LOVE MONEY heard all he said and scoffed him! Luke brings out in this parable of the rich man and Lazarus the strong tendency of the rich to repose their trust in their riches rather than God, to grow complacent and become numb to the glaring need for charity. The name of the poor man ‘Lazarus’ which was mentioned in the parable unlike the other parables of Jesus where names are not mentioned creates a contrast between such trust in riches and trust in God. The name Lazarus comes from the Greek Lazar, a shortened form of Eleazar which means “God helps”. Thus the poor Lazarus had only God to trust for his help. The rich man trusted in his riches. He was elaborately described as one who wore rich cloths of purple and linen and feasted everyday, yet he failed to notice a poor man tossed at his gate who needed only crumbs from his table. Lazarus on the other hand was so poor but even dogs were not denied a taste of the sores on his body. Hence, riches in Luke are only evil when they pitch man against God and when they are not used at the service of God. Thus, verse 11 says: If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will entrust to you the true riches?
Riches used in charity yield wealth in heaven but when it doesnt locate the poor, it brings eternal woes. The woes that will befall the rich and God’s consolation of the poor are found in the beatitudes of Luke 6:20-27. Therefore, the rich must make a decision whether to serve God as faithful stewards with their riches or to turn and serve their mammon. Serving of mammon is another version of idolatory, it is an abuse of God’s blessings. Observing social classes by the rich is an usurpation of God’s glory and a negligence of the poor. Not using one’s privileged position to minimize the woes and poverty of others is sheer
complacency in the face of evil and brings eternal damnation. Amos cries out in the first reading against such complacency. Men who lie in beds of ivory, feasting and are not concerned with the collapse of the nation, he says, would be the first to go into exile. Some countries under the yoke of bad leadership like Nigeria are at the verge of total breakdown yet many who are rich are not concerned since they are never in lack. They are equally doomed to answer for their complacency. Whatever we have and are come from God and must be used to help others. Most times the rich are not perturbed, they do not take the word of God seriously and they never consider themselves possible agents of the gospel. We are all called to preach to our brothers now that we can and to look out for the Lazaruses around us and become true servants of God’s mercy. If not there may not be a second chance to come back and right our wrongs. God bless you as you make effort to obey the word of God.
– Fr. Precious Ezeh