Sunday Sermon for September 25, 2022, the Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, year C
Readings: Amos 6:1a, 4-7; 1 Tim 6:11-16; Lk 16:19-31
In the first reading today the Lord God pronounces a woe on the people of Israel who have become complacent. Life became easy for them so they were able to relax, enjoy some entertainment, and have their fill of good food and wine. In many ways this sounds like life in many developed countries of the world right now.
The problem isn’t so much the relaxation, the entertainment, or the good food. In and of themselves these can all be good. However, one will note that God did not condemn these things, but the disposition of the people who were doing these things regarding the rest of society.
These people had become complacent. By this I do not mean that they had merely become lazy or out of shape. Rather, the Lord makes clear that the complacency had to do with the collapse of the society. It is clear from the context that it does not seem like there was a financial collapse (although in some societies even today the top echelon feasts sumptuously while the majority of the people live in poverty). Instead, a moral collapse far worse than a financial collapse was occurring.
When we look at what is happening in our own country, and many others that are more “advanced,” we will notice a similar problem. There is great wealth, but even greater moral decay. Unfortunately, it does not appear that there are very many people who are concerned by the moral collapse of society.
That said, there are more and more people waking up to what is happening. Some of these people are motivated by financial concerns, but the extremism we are seeing in the political agendas is also causing many people to become alarmed. Thankfully they are waking up, but I hope they will want to get back to what is true and good and not fall for the compromise with evil that pulls things back from the extreme, but allows the evil to operate in a lesser or more moderate manner.
Regardless of what is going on around us, we must follow the direction of St. Paul and pursue righteousness, devotion, love, patience, and gentleness. It is not just enough to be opposed to the evil around us, nor is it enough to settle for mediocrity. We are called to be holy, to be men and women of God who “compete well for the faith” and “lay hold of eternal life to which you were called.”
In the Gospel reading we hear about Dives (the rich man) and Lazarus who used to beg at the rich man’s door. The rich man filled himself, but showed no concern for someone who was in great need. I am always amazed when I read this passage to see how the selfishness of the rich man continued into eternity where, concerned only about himself, he wants Lazarus to come to alleviate his agony. Apparently, Lazarus was considered by Dives to be lower than himself, even though Lazarus is in Heaven while Dives is in the netherworld.
We must be clear that is was not the wealth of the rich man that caused him to lose his soul, nor was it the poverty of Lazarus that caused him to save his soul. However, their worldly standing probably contributed to their eternal reward. It was the internal disposition of each that caused them to take their places in their respective eternal abodes.
We must all consider our own interior dispositions. Do we think ourselves better or higher than others? Do we have charity and compassion for those less fortunate than ourselves? Are we truly concerned about the moral degradation of our society or merely about the prospect of financial losses?
If society continues on the trajectory we have been pursuing for quite some time, it appears we might all have the opportunity to practice what we have been addressing. Some may have much and some may find themselves in great need. God will give to each what will be the best for their soul. That does not mean that if you find yourself with plenty it is because God knew the best for you was being warm, fat, and happy. Rather, He knows that using what you have for the good of others is what is best.
At the same time, if God allows poverty to beset someone, that is because what is best for that person is to learn trust in God’s providence, and to have the humility and gratitude to receive from the charity and generosity of others. No matter what happens or in what circumstances you find yourself, remember to pursue righteousness and to live in this world with your focus on Heaven. These qualities will witness to your noble confession as you “lay hold of eternal life”!
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.