Posts Tagged ‘Complacency’


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. 

Have You Stiffened Your Neck?

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

Thursday of the Third Week in Lent

Jer 7: 23-28; Lk 11: 14-23

Dc. Larry Brockman

They have stiffened their necks and done worse than their fathers”.  Such are the prophet’s words from the Lord to the Israelis.  For generation after generation after they had been delivered from slavery to the Egyptians, the Israelis became complacent with their prosperity and freedom. They were so complacent that when the prophets told them that they were drifting away from the Lord by ignoring the law that Moses had handed onto them,  they “stiffened their necks”, meaning they just kept going right along in  their former path oblivious to the words of the prophets.   

Why? Because the prophets told them what they didn’t want to hear.  The prophets kept telling them that things had to change- they had to repent and follow the Lord’s law.   

That’s exactly what the Pharisees and Scribes did in the face of miracles that Jesus worked.  These religious leaders were the standard that others were supposed to seek- the good guys.  But Jesus kept telling them that they needed to change- they needed to live the law with their hearts.  The suggestion that they were less than perfect in their religious observance was threatening to them.  Because Jesus message was so repugnant to them, they sought desperately to discredit him by claiming his works were actually from the devil.  And Jesus called them on it. Only rather than get into an argument by quoting scripture to these scriptural experts, Jesus uses plain, simple, everyday logic on them; logic that the crowd of observers could easily relate to. 

How absurd were their claims that casting a devil out of a man be seen as the work of another devil.  Indeed, a house divided against itself does not stand.  And finally, he uses the argument “you are either for me or against me”.   

The lesson for us today is very simple.  It is so easy to get into the rut of complacency in our spiritual lives.  We desperately want to feel that we are on the right track.  And so, we really don’t want to hear about having to change our lives.  We want to just keep doing what we are doing, just like the Pharisees did.  And as long as our righteousness looks better than what we see other people doing, we tend to become complacent with our current situation.  In a sense, we “stiffen our necks”.   

Perhaps that’s why these scriptures were applied to Lent. because Lent is that time of year when we are challenged by the Lord to become better people.  Yes, better than we are even if we think everything is OK. 

In the other gospels, the man Jesus cured today was not only possessed by a demon, but he was blind and deaf as well.  When we are in a rut in our spiritual lives, we are blind and deaf to God’s message.  You know what? 

God’s message on how we can serve him better is all around us.  All we have to do is listen to it.  For example, our country is filled with those who hunger and thirst, they come for help at St. Vincent de Paul and other places.  Our country is full of people who hurt- they are in hospitals and rest homes and jails; and there are many who are taken advantage of- human trafficking is a real problem right here in Orlando.  But the more entrenched we become in our daily lives, the more we “stiffen our necks” at the suggestion that we have to change.   

Next week, the parish conducts a mission- right in the middle of Lent.  It’s a great opportunity to stop and listen and take to heart the lesson of the Old Testament that we are continually being called to conversion of heart; we are continually being called to become better. 

After all, we are either for Christ, or we are against him.