26th Sunday of OT Cycle C

Difference between Distances

Joke: Oh Lord, hit him again!” The parish church was badly in need of repair. So the pastor called a special meeting inside the church to raise funds. At the assembly the pastor explained the need of an emergency fund for plastering the roof and supporting pillars and the other areas which needed repair. He invited pledge of contributions. After a brief pause Mr. Murphy, the richest man in the parish, volunteered he would give $50. Just as he sat down, a hunk of plaster fell from the ceiling on the head of Mr. Murphy. He jumped up looking terribly startled and corrected himself: “I meant to say $500.” The congregation stood silent and stunned. Then a lone voice cried out: “Oh Lord, hit him again!”

The story of a rich man and a poor Lazarus that’s reported in today’s Gospel that we are all familiar with. We might ask ourselves: Is being rich a problem to enter into heaven? Has heaven filled with the poor people like Lazarus? To answer these questions, we are invited to examine another question: How would I live my life in order to enter the Kingdom of heaven?

In today’s Gospel, Saint Luke beautifully reports the words of the teaching of the Lord Jesus who said to the Pharisees and perhaps to each and every one of us by telling us a parable of a rich man and a poor man named Lazarus. Let us pay attention to the two realities of human beings. One is when we are alive, and the other is when we die. In the parable, both the rich man and the poor man are very close to each other in their daily life. The rich man obviously, as described in today’s Gospel, “dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously every day.” “Lying at his door,” Jesus said, “was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man's table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.” Both of them are next to each other in their daily living. One is filled with all good things, and the other is with empty stomach and covers with sores. The problem is not about dining sumptuously or not, dressing with fine linen or with sores, but rather, the problem is the ignorance of the rich man towards the poor man even though they are next to each other every day.

In today’s first reading, prophet Amos also reported the words of the Lord of hosts said to the people of Israel those who went against the Lord saying, “Woe to the complacent in Zion! Lying upon beds of ivory, stretched comfortably on their couches, eat lambs taken from the flock, calves from the stall, drink wine from bowls and anoint themselves with the best oils; yet they are not made ill by the collapse of Joseph” or the kingdom of Israel, the Northern Kingdom. Just as the rich man ignored the presence of the suffering of the poor, these Israelites ignored the presence of the Lord in their life, specifically by oppressing the poor and the widows and their fellow Israelites.

The ignorance of the presence of God in their life, especially the collapse of Joseph lead them to go into exile, the ignorance of the poor man Lazarus that lead the rich man to go to the netherworld. The ignorance of the collapse of Joseph lead them to the destruction, the ignorance of the presence of the poor man lead separated the rich man with a great distance between the rich man and the poor man when they both died.

In this ignorance of the presence of one another in one’s life, the rich man went to the netherworld, while the poor man Lazarus went to the bosom of Father Abraham. Between these two men after death was a great chasm separated them that prevented them and any one crossing from one side to another.

From this ignorance of the presence of God or the presence of others in one’s life, we might want to ask: How would I avoid ignoring the presence of God and the presence of others in my life? Saint Paul, in his first letter sent to Timothy reported in today’s second reading, said, “You, man of God, pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, & gentleness.” Above all these, the Lord Jesus, the Son of God and God himself, invites us to live the two great commandments: To love God and to love one another. Ignoring God will lead our soul into decay, and ignoring one another will lead us darkness and destruction. The decision is yours.


Weekend Homilies 2019

Homilies by Fr. Joseph Nguyen

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