YEAR C: HOMILY FOR THE 26TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores.” (Luke 16:19-20)
BY: Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC
HOMILY: Luke 16:19-31
The lesson with its gospel application has remained with me ever since that long-ago gathering with my sister and her family. It was at a Saturday morning breakfast table conversation that Shannon, my then 18 year-old niece, so serendipitously offered the lesson that surely came straight from heaven for its wider meaning. While she was merely commenting on the over-ripe banana on the table, Shannon was actually delivering one of the most important sermons ever preached to me.
“Do you know how to keep bananas from ripening so quickly?” she asked. When none of us had an answer, she provided enlightenment. “Very simple! Just separate them. It’s when they’re clumped together that they ripen so fast. If you pull them off the stem and put them a few feet apart, they’ll ripen more slowly. Then we won’t have black bananas like this one.”
As she held up the over-ripe sample taken from the bowl on the table, she continued the lesson. “See, bananas give off ethylene gas, and it triggers the other bananas to hurry up and ripen. If you separate them, the green ones don’t get exposed to the gas and don’t ripen so quickly.” Almost like an infection, I thought. The first one to get it passes it along to the others. With bananas, though, it’s a good and necessary kind of infection. The first ripe banana emits the ethylene that triggers the others to ripen. And if a banana is separated from the bunch, it remains green longer. Then the revelation!
Hasn’t this been just like my experience of living in a religious community these past 53 years? Haven’t I matured—“ripened,” if you will—through close living with others who have “infected” me in the very best sense of the word? And haven’t I, in the course of ministry, met those who have, in spite of their years, remained “green,” who have been unwilling or unable to see beyond themselves? Yes, indeed, people ripen just like bananas do. It’s community that brings things to ripeness.
It’s a lesson that has stark connection to the gospel passage we hear today. The parable begins, “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores.” (Luke 16:19-20) While Jesus doesn’t condemn the rich man for his fine clothing and exquisite dining, he does condemn him for keeping his front gate so firmly bolted. The rich man spent a lifetime separated from those beyond his gate. He never ripened.
Surely, we are all called to live out our human potential, to become fully ripened members of the global community, infecting others with peace, hope and love.
Shannon’s Saturday morning sermon continues to challenge me. Indeed, people ripen just like bananas do. It’s community that brings us to full fruition.