September 29/30, 2007
Does God Condemn Riches or Rather Our Attitudess Toward Riches?
My theme this weekend is Does God condemn riches or our attitudes towards riches? But first a quote: General Dwight Eisenhower once remarked, Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, is in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger [for food] and are not fed; it is a theft from those who are cold and are not clothed; [it is a theft from those who need shelter and are not sheltered; it is a theft from the broken, the hurting or wounded at heart and are not consoled or comforted].
What does this assertion mean to us today? What applicable effect does it have on our lifestyle and perceptions today?
This assertion has great implications in our lives because any time we make or sell arms to the weak, especially to citizens in troubled countries just to kill one another, we break away from a fundamental principle of Jesus teaching on Social Justice issues the care for one another.
For those of us who rather avoid confrontation, we would rather sit on the fence, say or do nothing. But Eisenhower, as soldier, realized that it costs millions of dollars to produce F 15 Fighter jets and Stealth Bombers. We could use those millions of dollars we spend on unnecessary projects to feed the Lazaruses on our streets here in Regina, Toronto etc. We are rather so proud to parade those F 15 Jet Fighters and Stealth Bombers at Air Shows. We are proud to showcase fighter planes in which one pilot sits, and presses one button either to kill hundreds of people or cause a major destruction. We are so proud to spend millions of dollars on fighter jets at the expense of citizens who have no food to eat, clothes or shelter or Medicare Insurance.
The question we may ask is: Did Jesus blame or condemn the rich man in todays gospel? No! Jesus did not blame him for his wealth. Jesus did not and does not condemn mere possession of earthly riches. He blames rather selfishness and our inability to share our riches with the needy or even notice the presence of the Lazaruses around us. Riches must be understood as both Physical and Spiritual acquisition. The Physical is material wealth. For Madonna, [sing] We are living in a material world and I am a material girl, you know, we are living in a material world and I am a material girl. The Spiritual depth is the ability to give Gods love to all irrespectively.
Regrettably, some parents of this generation fill emptiness in childrens heart with material instead of giving them love and affection. May I suggest to you now to love your children or family? For some parents, in order not get into confrontation with their teenage son or daughter, they rather say nothing; they rather close their ears. [Expand 3 Monkeys stories hands closing eyes fingers shutting ears hands over mouth significance]. This is not giving love!
So what does The Parable of Lazarus or The Parable of The Rich Man tell us?
The Parable of The Rich Man or The parable of Lazarus reminds us of our contribution towards the implementation and fulfillment of Social Justice Issues. It challenges us not only to remain People of Sunday worship, for it is not enough to come to Church. The parable urges us to become conscious about what happens around us about our environment.
Some of us are just happy coming to Church on Saturday or Sunday, because we have done our bit. It makes us good Christians. The parable suggests that it is not enough to be Christian. If just being Christian is enough, Jesus would not have died on the Tree of the Cross for us. Jesus wants us go one, ten, hundred miles more beyond sitting in our pews or beyond comfortable living.
Attempting to know what goes on in their environment, a certain female parishioner, during the Christmas Season, took some parishioners in her parish to the slum area of the citys downtown to deliver Christmas baskets. Their eyes were opened to shocking realities. [Expand on shocking realities in some developing countries].
Stunned by shocking revelations on the streets of distribution, they exclaimed, We did not know poverty existed right here around us! Yes, like the rich man, who could care less about the poor Lazarus at his doorstep while he passed him by and feasted sumptuously everyday, our eyes are opened too late to notice the Lazaruses in our midst.
It is good to remind ourselves that from now on we are the mind, the eyes, the heart, the hands and feet of Jesus that reach out to those in need of our love and attention: the divorced, the separated, the fatherless, the battered woman, the woman who has become a sex-bag for the husband, and to the child that feels lost and is restless. We as Church as parish and parishioners sometimes do damage to divorced and single parents who are already hurting and feel ostracized by society. While they see the Church as their last place to come for comfort, we as Church as Parish and parishioners, deny them access to Holy Communion simply because we judge them to be sinful especially when they are involved with another person other than their former spouse. I do not think Jesus would turn people away. Jesus would rather embrace them as he challenges them to move on from where they find themselves and into a light of happiness.
May be we should remind ourselves that from now on we are the mind, eyes, heart, hands and feet of Jesus that reach out to the poor, the homeless, those who scavenge from garbage bins in order to eat, people that line up at Regina Food Banks before they can feed their family, people who sleep in heated bus tops and train terminals is Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver during winter while government cutbacks empty programs that could sustain them and maintain their dignity at least to some degree.
May be we are victims of the man in todays parable. As people and as individuals, we know who we invite into our homes; we know the people we invite to our parties or gatherings; we know those we welcome to sit beside us and share food and conversation with us; we also know the people we want to see standing far away from us. So who are we and how is our behaviour like the rich man or Lazarus?
As the late Pope John Paul II reiterated, The rich man had everything, but he did not KNOW God; the poor man lacked everything, but he KNEW God. Do we know God as Church, as Parish and parishioners, as individuals and as a community?
And so folks, as we partake of this Eucharist, let us make a conscious decision to volunteer our time or make available some of our financial resources in order that we may improve the physical, spiritual or mental growth and emotional well being of the Lazaruses in our midst. Let us challenge ourselves to pick up one Lazarus this week a person who needs probably just a phone call or a surprise visit and see what wonders God could work in their lives and in our lives!
Father John-Baptist Okai