Archive for September, 2019


Thursday, September 26th, 2019

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Amos 6: 1a, 4-7; 1 Tim 6: 11-16; Lk 16: 19-31

Deacon Larry Brockman

Today we hear about complacency! 

First, Amos tells us of the complacency of the Judeans in the Southern Kingdom of Israel when their brothers in the Northern Kingdom were conquered by Assyria and sent off in exile.  Amos correctly predicts their doom, because the South was soon sent into exile in punishment for their complacency- they stood by and did nothing.  Their comfortable lives were ended when they were sent into exile.  This was complacency of an entire people- the people of the Southern Kingdom   

Then, in our Gospel today, we hear of a complacent person.  The rich man Divas was happy with his own worldly life, yet complacent over the plight of Lazarus who was daily visible to him.  This is a singular incident in the Gospel, where names are given in what seems like a parable.  And the judgment the rich man receives is harsh indeed- everlasting punishment.    This person is not just simply complacent.  Rather, he doesn’t consider his actions sinful at all.  Most probably this person considered himself a abiding by the Mosaic Law.  He was just enjoying his God-given prosperity.  You see, in first century Jerusalem, people believed that God rewarded those who kept his law and punished those who did not.  So in his mind, the rich man’s prosperity was proof that he was righteous; he simply left Lazarus alone in the punishment he had brought on himself.  Initially Jesus’ audience would have had this view as well.   

But the dialog that Jesus describes between Abraham and the rich man shatters this view.  Because Abraham tells him that he did not listen to Moses and the prophets.  For the Mosaic law required that a portion of a person’s wealth be shared with the poor. The rich man does not dispute this, almost an admission of guilt.  Now other elements of the story amplify the rich man’s selfishness, and an absence of his contrition.  Because the fine purple garments and the sumptuous dining reveal the true nature of the rich man’s heart.  He is living an extravagant life; he is putting on airs.  The rich man was focused on his present life, as if that were all there was to life.   

Now after death, the rich man recognized Lazarus from his place of torment; but he still expected Lazarus to wait on him in his troubles.  Yes, he is sorry that he is in torment, but he is not repentant because he still believes himself above Lazarus.   

Jesus uses this story to make it abundantly clear that we cannot be complacent in the face of the suffering of others; rather, we have a responsibility to pay attention to what is going on around us.  We have a responsibility to show compassion and share the gifts that God has given us.   

It is easy to fall into complacency if our focus is on this world and ourselves.  But we can lose eternal life by being complacent.  That’s what happened to the rich man.   

Paul tells us this morning what our real focus on life should be.  We are to pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness in our daily lives.  And we are to lay hold of eternal life as the focus.  He says that these things follow after we make a “noble confession”.  The noble confession is our conversion, a conversion from a life which is focused on this world  to a focus on doing God’s will in seeking eternal life; that’s what the confession is all about.  It is an awakening in our inner most being about the fact that life in this world is not what life is all about and a realization that relationships, especially our relationship with God, are what is lasting.   

Now it seems to me that our current society is full of paradoxes when it comes to complacency in the face of suffering.  Indeed, our country provides a tremendous portion of the relief services for the troubled spots throughout the world.  And Americans, have a long history of not being complacent as the Southern kingdom of Israel was in its day.  For example, Americans didn’t ignore the evils of Hitler and Stalin; we were decidedly not complacent.   

But what about us as individuals?  During the devastation in the Bahamas caused by Hurricane Dorian we saw a tremendous outpouring of compassion.  The response was quick and meaningful over a broad spectrum of our community- hardly the response of a complacent people.  But how long did it last?  How long was it be before we resumed our lives and put this suffering behind us?  It’s only natural, when we live in relative comfort, to fall into complacency.  After all, out of sight; out of mind- that’s the paradox.   

But the reality is that there are Lazaruses all around us all the time- the person stopped by the side of the road with a flat; the neighbor who just lost their spouse; a friend who lost his job; someone who was diagnosed with a terminal illness; and many, many other similar situations.  We can continue to pass over these situations in the humdrum of life and the relative comfort of our lives.  But that is what complacency is, isn’t it?   

Now this parish is blessed by a very active St. Vincent de Paul convention.  They are celebrating (celebrated) their anniversary this weekend at this (the 10:30) Mass.  They are there to help the Lazaruses of our world; the ones that are all around us.  They do incredible work; but they could do so much more.  Contact them to see how you can help.