Sunday Sermon for September 25, 2016, the Twenty Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Readings: Am 6:1a, 4-7; 1Tim 6:11-16; Lk 16:19-31
In the second reading today St. Paul addresses Timothy in a very strong and direct manner. Calling him a man of God, St Paul then tells him to strive for righteousness, to compete well for the faith, and to take hold of eternal life to which he was called when he made his noble confession of faith. If that were not enough, St. Paul then charges Timothy before God and Jesus Who made His noble confession before Pilate, to keep the Commandments without stain until the coming of the Lord.
You and I are called to be men and women of God. On the day we were baptized we made a noble confession of Faith. We make a similar confession every time we pray the Creed at Mass or at the beginning of the Rosary. Most importantly, we rejected Satan and we professed our Faith in the Holy Trinity. Tragically, most of us have played Satan’s game all too often. This is why St. Paul reminds Timothy of our Lord’s noble confession. He truly and absolutely rejected Satan and all of his vile lies.
Thankfully, because our Lord’s noble confession went beyond Pilate himself and extended to Calvary and beyond, He nailed our sins to the Cross so that when we return to Him after recognizing the emptiness of all that the enemy of our souls has to offer, we can still find mercy, forgiveness, and redemption. These are all gifts for which we have done nothing other than professing our faith in them. It cost us nothing.
The fact that it cost us nothing is where our problem comes in. When something costs us nothing it often means very little to us. We can use it and abuse it because we have no vested interest in it. The problem here is not the fact that it cost Jesus everything and it cost us nothing; the problem is that we are so ungrateful and fail to recognize that He did this for us out of love. As a result, we do not love Him in return; we take Him for granted instead.
This is precisely the problem that we hear about in the other two readings. First we hear about the complacent in Zion. They are living easy lives of wealth and luxury. Neither the wealth nor the luxury are evil in themselves, but the result of these things in the time of Amos was that the people became selfish. They did not care about the collapse of Israel; all they cared about was that they had the comforts they wanted. As long as they had what kept them occupied with their own pleasure, they did not care what happened to anyone else.
Does this not sound like our situation today? Like the proverbial frog in the water, we are watching our society being systematically destroyed, yet there is very little concern being shown. As long as we have our fast food and our entertainment we do not seem to mind if our freedoms are taken away, if we are lied to, if we are stolen from, or if we are violated in some other way by the government and the media. Nothing matters except pleasure and entertainment.
We see in the Gospel reading just how far this selfishness and the sense of entitlement can carry. We hear about the rich man calling out from his place in hell to have God sent the poor beggar to cool the rich man’s tongue. The problem for the selfish rich man is that in hell he is no longer rich or powerful. Lazarus is no longer a beggar in Heaven; he has become rich in the things of God. Most importantly, he is rich in charity along with all of the other Saints in Heaven.
All of this becomes extremely important for us today because we are called to be God’s children. God wants us in Heaven and St. Paul is asking us to take hold of that eternal life. While it is free, we still have to make the choice. But this is not a merely theoretical choice; it must be very practical. Sure we would all like to go to Heaven where we can continue to feast on our fast food and saturate our senses with entertainment. But fast food and cheap entertainment is what hell is all about, not Heaven. Remember your noble profession of faith and reject what the devil has to offer.
In Heaven the Blessed feast on the Lord and they are filled to their capacity with love. In their repentance from sin the Saints came to understand that what they received freely was given at a tremendous cost. They responded and competed well: they took hold of eternal life, they lived the commandments, they loved.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.