September 29, 2013
ORDINARY 26 (C)
If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead. – Luke 16: 31
The Englishman Stuart Briscoe wrote this account of his first visit to the United States:
It was January 1st when I arrived…. I turned on the television & saw a picture the likes of which I had never seen before. It was a rear view shot of a row of big men in tight pants bending over in such a fashion that they appeared to be putting intolerable strain on said pants. Behind them stood a man yelling & shouting. After much shouting, they gave him a ball. He promptly gave it to one of his friends who ran a few steps & was treated to an awful beating by some other men wearing similar tight pants, but of a different color. After repeating the outrageous procedure several times, the man with the ball suddenly threw it about 60 yards to another man I hadn’t noticed before. He caught it, ran a few yards, did a funny little dance, & the crowd went wild. I thought I had stumbled onto some religious festival & was completely mystified until someone started to explain what was happening so that a newly arrived Englishmen could understand. It appeared that the quarterback had so effectively faked a hand-off to his running back that the defensive line & line-backers had played the run, leaving the receiver wide open to catch the pass & go for a touchdown. It all happened because the defensive players had chased the man without the ball. The moral of the story is, if you are free to pursue happiness, don’t be faked into pursuing it where it isn’t.
There are many ways in which we in this country have been faked into pursuing happiness where it isn’t. From money & all it can buy, to drugs, to entertainment, to the latest high-tech gadgets to power, to recognition (even if it means infamy) or even just to a stable, uneventful existence we seek in vain. Most telling of all, perhaps, is something we nebulously call “Quality of Life,” which usually involves some notion of adequate housing, food, education, clothing, health, & job opportunity. Not that such things are unimportant, but we tend to use them to place a value on human life. If any one or a combination of these factors is taken from us, we start to think life isn’t worth living.
The bottom line here is that WE have set ourselves up as judges of what life is worth & when it is worthwhile. WE are playing God. The problem with this is that we inevitably sell ourselves short – we put too cheap a price on ourselves. From wars to Nazi death camps, from terrorist hit squads to gang drive-bys, from common muggers on the street to crazy people who open up on innocents or fellow workers with automatic weapons, from abortion to infanticide to euthanasia to suicide, we’ve proven time & again that our judgment on the value of human life is seriously flawed. We cannot be trusted with so important a decision.
If human life is worth anything at all, it is because God thinks so; & He has let us know that the value He places on it is far higher than anything WE can pay. It is worth the suffering, death & resurrection of His only begotten Son. Take God out of the picture, & we’re worth nothing!
The name Lazarus means “he who God helps.” It is a constant in Scripture that the poor, the helpless, & the defenseless are special objects of God’s care & concern. By virtue of our baptism, we are called to be God-like, & that is why the Lazarus’ of this world cannot be ignored by us. He lies at our doorstep in as many forms as there are human troubles, especially the un-born. Yes, there are undoubtedly difficult situations: rape, incest, poverty, what have you. But two wrongs do not make a right.
Notice that the rich man in the story was not actively evil, just passively indifferent. It was his hardness of heart that made it impossible for him to change his priorities & life-style. Jesus was right - not even one raised from the dead can break through that kind of callousness. We are very much in danger of getting bogged down in the same rut when we are unwilling to listen, humbly & prayerfully, to what our Risen Lord is trying to tell us.
If we react to this Gospel with a pious “bravo!” for Lazarus & a righteous “serves him right” for the rich man, we learn nothing. But we have much to learn if we can identify with the 5 living brothers whose future possibilities were still open. It’s not too late to show the unborn that we have heard a message of great joy & wish to share that joy by reaching out to those in distress, by being God’s ministering angels to those in need of His help. AMEN!