I was watching a quite bizarre rental movie about a hunter going after Big Foot. I wouldn’t have bothered seeing it, since I don’t believe or care about Big Foot and his supposed threat on North America, but the film had the great actor Sam Elliott and his big mustache in it, so I wanted to watch it for that reason. A scene happens when you think Big Foot is dead, since he is unresponsive to the hunter’s poking at him after a shooting, but the creature comes back alive. He responds, quite actively, just when you thought he was expired! It makes for another entertaining 10 or so minutes as the hunter chases Big Foot around some more in the woods.
God is hoping there is some responsiveness in His people, and that we will come alive in Faith and put some true and dynamic action in our Catholic living. He doesn’t want a dead look or listless look in His people, nor of a couch potato kind of believer witness before Him, but an alive people. The first reading in the Word today is about a person lying on a couch, far too lazily and uncaringly for anything else. The prophet Amos is pretty hard on them. The matching Gospel of this Sunday is about a man who cares very little for some obvious needs around him, in which he can do something about. He is unresponsive. Very Unresponsive.
Have you noticed how in the past few weeks, that the Gospel keeps coming back to a common theme? It is Luke and his section of chapters 13-16. These readings are meant to have us assess or re-assess our priorities, asking: Do all matters of our life fall under the Lordship of Christ or not? Are we responding to God’s prompts for us? Or, then, what is in the way—what do we fall for or settle on? Is it money playing in a role as ‘god’ in our lives? Is it an off relationship ruining matters between us and God and our best response of faith in God? Or, as Luke 16 brings up today: Are we giving leisure and individual comfort and indifference to high a place in our lives, with the result of marginalizing God out to be only a small consideration?
Each of these late Summer and early Autumn gospels in Luke ask us to keep God first, and to not let something change that.
A rich man is mentioned in Luke 16, who is robed in the finest purple clothes and eating the most sumptuous meals. That in itself is not a problem, but his lust and carried away attitude for ease and self-satisfaction IS the problem. He is daily passing by a need right at his mansion gates every day. He can be of help, but he chooses indifference and un-responsiveness to the needy man in his driveway. Jesus points out that this is a serious problem.
Jesus gives this lesson to the Pharisees, as it is pointed out by Luke’s account here. Seemingly, the Pharisees thought quite well of themselves, and of their being fairly religious. Jesus comments that one cannot be very religious while being selfish and indifferent to others. He says this incriminating evidence of their uncaring ways sheds light on their true self. They live poorly in God’s view.
The rich man Dives (a name given elsewhere of the man at fault) is a drive-by or walk by offender. His sin is of omission, and of just not caring at all for this neighbor. While blessed with much in his favor, Dives will act irresponsibly, even omitting any care for an obvious someone right outside his front gate of the property.
Because of this uncaring spirit, Jesus so alludes in His story, this leads the Pharisees to even commit greater errors. Because of their closed eyes attitude, they will also greatly miss noticing the Son of God in their streets, too. Now THAT’S a BIG miss!
The Bible story is given for us to note how the sin of unresponsiveness and laziness is pretty serious. We can have a dire issue going on over an unwillingness to get a little uncomfortable in the service of God, or to instead just favor a secular leisure way to fill out our time. The image of people lying in beds of comfort (ivory couches) is the cry of Amos the prophet, as he describes the reason why People Israel lost so much over their (likewise) complacency of faith.
I might even guess that the Pharisee (rich man) at fault walked over or around Lazarus (the poor needy man) on his way to Saturday synagogue worship. The Saturday service of an hour was easy enough, but not the living out of the Torah. Convenience but not faith ruled the day for them, these Pharisees. Jesus does not let then off the hook about it. Unresponsive, uncaring, lazy behavior (in place of zealous faith) is a serious sin.
In applying the lesson to ourselves, we know that being a great parish community asks for people to not lie around and take ease, but to get involved somehow. Or, at least being doing so in their daily lives, and bringing such testimony to the parish community and one’s offering at Sunday Mass.
Take note, in an acute point of last Sunday’s message and of this one, that Jesus does not condemn a person’s being well-off or their having comforts or of their enjoying some leisure and good over it. Rather, as Jesus said elsewhere, to whom much is given, much will be required. If you are blessed in talent, treasure, time to serve—then make an effort to share it. If you can be of help to the faith community, then be generous. To sit back in convenience and couch potato faith will not be good for you.
I would like to point out a real story of a DC/Md. woman who made a point of being active in her life for the Church and Jesus Christ, even while she had plenty reason to take it easy, due to her health.
Mary Merrick lived in DC/Bethesda in the Blessed Sacrament parish area (if you know where that is, along Connecticut Avenue and Chevy Chase Circle). She grew up in a well-off Catholic family, and older one among a number of siblings, when sadly her parents died, even while she was a teenager. What did Mary do? She was selfless. She took care of the family. She was responsive. She took on the missing role of parent and helped her needy family. The financial situation meant that there would be some paid help with home needs, but the most pressing need for love and attention was met and given by Mary to others in her family.
In this life of caring, she noticed how others outside the family were also in struggles, often times without the finances to cope well. So it led to her helping a man with the simple need of a red wagon as a gift to him, as Mary convinced some better-off persons (money wise) to kick in and finance the man’s need. This act led to many other similar ones of care, until it blossomed into a ministry called the Christ Child Society. An organized bunch of caring people would collect and respond to the needs around them. This movement spread around the nation, and it goes on today.
I think Mary Merrick is the example of the responsive believer, the kind that Jesus was espousing for His followers.
This woman can encourage us. She lived in Bethesda/Chevy Chase/DC and summered out in Ellicott City, and she left quite a reputation after her of copying caring people. She now has a cause of canonization going on. It would be a future saint for our Archdiocese—since she was one of us. In a special note of matter, she did all of this from a wheelchair since a teenager. She did all this caring from a wheelchair, stricken with a disability, but it did not hinder, but rather helped her to be a more caring, other-centered person.
She is quite the opposite of the man in Luke’s story today. Servant of God, Mary Merrick, help us to live this Gospel. Help us to respond to the things You, O God, are asking of us. Whom shall we serve and love?
In a closing point, Luke’s Gospel is about seeing the Lord, the Christ Child, is the people and situations around us, and in caring about this parish and its mission here at Resurrection. God has needs right in front of us, and we point them out at times in parish situations, where we can be of help, and to act responsively or responsibly, and it is a wonderful witness of faith. I am happy for that kind of witness going on in your lives.
Thus says the LORD the God of hosts:
Woe to the complacent in Zion!
Lying upon beds of ivory,
stretched comfortably on their couches. AMOS 6
But you, man of God, pursue righteousness,
devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness.
Compete well for the faith.
Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called 1 TIM. 6
“There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day.\And lying at his door 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.
When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham.
The rich man also died and was buried, and from the netherworld, where he was in torment,
he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.
And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me…..’My child, remember that you received
what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad;
but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented.
Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours.’ LUKE 16