26th Sunday Year C - Homily 2

Homily 2 - 2010

Today’s story haunts me. It challenges me. On the world stage, I am the rich man. In the eyes of 2/3 no the world’s population, I am unimaginably rich.

The rich man in the story did nothing – with Lazarus there at his doorstep, every day. Why did he do nothing? We don’t know – though we might hazard a guess. But I can ask myself: How has the current world situation affected my comfortable life-style?

I know something of the plight of the poor. My head does not retain the figures – but I have a general grasp of the situation. I can’t do everything. I can’t solve the problems – they’re complex; they’re beyond me. I do some things. I contribute, through Caritas, to urgent tragedies and to on-going developmental projects.

What does that do to me? Does it quieten my conscience? - let me off the hook? Does it lead me to look at myself? With my limited energies, my limited opportunities, my other responsibilities, does it call to my deeper self? to my sense of solidarity? to mycapacity for compassion?

Where am I … Who am I … in this sin-scarred, oppressive world in which we live? Where is my heart? Where are my priorities? Personal comfort?“Don’t disturb! I’ve got enough on my plate!” or Content with enough … basically other-directed … sufficiently sensitive, and vulnerable to be disturbed, and to re-adjust?

When I die, I have no doubt that God is love, infinite love – but what about me when my life on earth stops short and my fundamental life-orientation snaps shut into eternity? Shall I face into eternity a loving person, energised by love, practised in love? Or shall I still be absorbed in my own narrow self-interests, cynical,frightened of love, indifferent to the needs of the world?

Today marks our Church’s Social Justice Sunday. The Bishops’ Committee has prepared a great statement that is available in the Church foyer. This year, it is not focussed on the world scene or on specific national or local questions – but on the deeper, more pervasive issue of violence.

It is important to name it, to call violence for what it is – whatever about the media, the culture – whether it glorifies it, exploits it or ignores it. Violence, in whatever form it takes, and wherever it happens, is the opposite of, the absence of, love.

Even the rich man’s doing nothing was violence. I think that the spontaneous hostility that lurks just under the surface in all of us is the practical shape of original sin. It disfigures our world. And it is insidious because so often we do not recognise it.

I can’t change others – but I can seek to change myself (or let God change me) and, perhaps, in that way, I can contribute to changing society. But how? How do we become aware of our spontaneous hostility? (In the story that Jesus told, the rich man probably didn’t even see Lazarus after a while – he had sort of merged into the scenery.) And, when we do notice our hostility, how do we break out of it?

My own response has been to pursue the inner journey – the inner journey of self-knowledge through prayer, through meditation, through trying to keep attuned to the voice of Jesus as I hear it in the Gospels, and through trying to listen to my conscience, I try to keep informed and stimulated and challenged by reading. I try to keep an open mind, and to do what I can – what I judge appropriate – to meet some needs of some people. I could be better. But I am not sure what else to do. The challenge of Jesus’ story still persists.