They Have Moses and the Prophets

(September 29, 2019)

Bottom line: We have Moses and the prophets to guide us. They teach us to fast, pray and share. Above all, we have someone who has risen from the dead.

This Sunday's Gospel underscores what we saw last week: We face a crisis and we need to take decisive action. Use wealth, Jesus said, to make friends who will welcome you into eternal life. Whether we like it or not, we are involved in a high stakes game. The decisions we make have eternal consequences. We see this in Abraham's words to the rich man who wakes up in torment:

"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."

How did the rich man find himself on the wrong side? Jesus gives a clue. He says that the man "dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day." Clothes can become an obsession and a person can spend all his money on the latest styles. But I think what most brought down the rich man was dining sumptuously every day. Let me explain.

It's no sin to enjoy a delicious meal, especially with family and friends. The problem is that he dined sumptuously every day. That means he never fasted. This is different from Jesus. Although Our Lord enjoyed wonderful meals, he also fasted. Before beginning his public ministry, he fasted forty days. And he said his disciples would fast when he was taken from them.

We Catholics used to practice meatless Fridays and we still do during Lent. I know many of you abstain from meat on Fridays or other days. Some of you practice the Daniel Fast avoiding from savory foods such as meat, eggs, dairy, sweets, alcohol, etc.

Fasting has a way of waking us up. In the Bible fasting is connected to care for those who have less. The rich man who dined sumptuously every day never connected with Lazarus. So focused on his stylish clothes and sumptuous meals, he didn't offer the poor man even the scraps from his table. The dogs lived better than Lazarus.

In reaching out to the poor we should follow the example of St. Vincent de Paul. He went to people's homes and treated the needy person as if he were Jesus. Our St. Vincent de Paul Society tries to follow that example.

To give cash to someone at a freeway exit can be counter productive. Better to first spend time listening, trying to discern what the person really needs. If you cannot do that, support those who do: Catholic Community Service, our parish St. Vincent's or the Mary Bloom Center. And all of us can make the effort to connect with someone on the margins - maybe in our own families.

The stakes are high. How a person treats the Lazarus at our doorstep will determine his eternal fate. We have ample warning. Jesus says that "If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead". Well, someone has risen from the dead.

To sum up: Abraham tells the rich man there's a great chasm between heaven and hell. When we die we are fixed eternally - either turned toward God or away from him. The devil wants to distract us: fine clothes, sumptuous dining every day, drugs, porn, rage, you name it. Jesus invites us to take the narrow gate, the one that leads to peace with God. We have Moses and the prophets to guide us. They teach us to fast, pray and share. Above all, we have someone who has risen from the dead. Amen.

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Man with Boots Laced (Audio homily for 26th Sunday, Year C 2016)

Geography of Faith: Part 3 (Audio homily for 26th Sunday, Year C 2013)

Spanish Version

From Archives (Homilies for Twenty-Sixth Sunday, Year C):

2016: Boots Laced Week 2: High Stakes
2013: Geography of Faith: The Threat of Exile
2010: The Choice: Heaven or Hell
2007: Why Was the Rich Man Condemned?
2004: He Dined Sumptuously
2001: An Eternally Unbridgeable Chasm
1998: The Abyss Between Heaven and Hell

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Jesus himself participated in banquets and the Bible describes heaven as a wedding feast with choice meats and the finest wine.

I personally admire vegans but we have to recognize Jesus was not a vegetarian. He ate the roasted pascal lamb and as we saw a couple weeks ago he spoke about celebrations that involved slaughtering the fatted calf.

So the problem is not that the rich man dined sumptuously, but that he did so every day. This meant he never fasted. Even though Jesus from time to time dined sumptuously he also fasted. Before beginning his public ministry he fasted 40 days!

We Catholics used to practice meatless Fridays and will still do during Lent. I encourage you to try one meatless day weekly. I know many of you already do and that some of you periodically practice the Daniel Fast abstaining from savory foods such as meat, eggs, dairy, alcohol, etc.

Along with fasting and abstinence we need to recognize our duty to those who have less. In our Generations of Faith this year we are focusing on Catholic Justice. This involves working for a Culture of Life where those who are strong care for those who are weak. In this life we are like clay in a potter's hand being formed into something beautiful or something misshapen. Placed in an oven, however, the clay takes a permanent shape. Just so when we die we are fixed eternally - either turned toward God away from them. The devil wants to distract us: fine clothes, sumptuous dining, drugs, porn, rage, you name it. Jesus invites us to take the narrow gate, the one that leads to joy, to sharing with others. We have Moses and the prophets to guide us. Above all, we have someone who has risen from the dead. Amen