26th Sunday Year C - Homily 1

Homily 1 - 2007

There are too many Lazaruses. We see them daily on our TV news coverages. There are too many. they confront us with our impotence. What can we do? It’s their leaders; it’s their enemies; it’s just bad luck!

To preserve our peace of mind, we learn to switch off – perhaps even feel resentful because they make us at times feel awkwardly guilty. So we see them at one level, and we don’t see them at another. Not unlike the rich man in today’s Gospel parable.

The root problem is one of enough – but enough of what? We are confronted by the fact that for the millions who have less than enough, there are even more who have more than enough – that’s most of us in the Western world. We have become addicted to more, more… and we will not give it up, will not even slow it up.

Yet, for all our “more than enough”, as a society we do not have enough happiness, inner peace, wisdom, or serenity. Precisely because we do not have enough of these inner resources, we have become addicted to the panic-driven search – for more powerful cars, for more food than is healthy, for bigger homes.

I think that, if we in the West had enough inner peace, self-knowledge and serene self-acceptance, there could be enough food, water, shelter, work and security for everyone in our world. I don’t think that there will ever be enough basics for all until we in the West learn to experience and appreciate the genuine human values – but for that to happen, we have to be converted, (or even half-converted).

And conversion involves learning to love, which in turn involves waking up to our own self-obsession, and gradually letting go of it. Perhaps, what the rich man in today’s parable needed most of all was to find enough inner peace, serenity and wisdom. Only then would he really have seen Lazarus at his door.

I remember about 35 years ago, a time when I had become very involved in issues of Global poverty. (Some of you might remember the early inter-Church cooperative project: Action for World Development.) In the face of my sharpening and better-informed awareness of the totally unacceptable poverty and injustice around the world, and the urgent need to become effectively involved, I began to question the relevance and effectiveness of priesthood.

Fortunately, the insight came that I have talked about this evening/morning: There will always be injustice and rampant greed in the world until people’s empty hearts are filled. Jesus was not content to heal the sick and to include the marginalised. He called them, and everyone else, to radical conversion. I made then the deliberate choice to keep with priesthood, because it gave me privileged access to people’s minds and hearts – and I am glad that I did.

Only as we in the West are healed of our addictions; only as the emptiness in our hearts is filled; only as we identify in ourselves our deepest needs will we have the freedom to share with others the resources that, at the moment, we compulsively grasp for ourselves.

Today, in the Australian Church, is our annual Social Justice Sunday. As has been theircustom, the Australian Bishops have prepared a booklet for our reflection and action. They have called it: Who is my Neighbour? Australia’s Role as a Global Citizen. With the talk of elections in the air, it is a timely contribution to broader debate. It is a helpful, easy to read, but challenging reflection.