Thursday, October 04, 2007

Okay! Okay! I get it already!

A priest was assigned to a new parish. At his first Mass, he preached a homily that moved the congregation to tears. It was the talk of the neighborhood throughout the week; so much so that, the next Sunday, the church was packed. The congregation stilled to a hush as the priest approached the pulpit. To their surprise, he preached the same homily from the Sunday before. They assumed that he repeated the homily for the benefit of those who hadn't been there the week before. But, the next Sunday, with the church packed again and full of anticipation, the priest gave the same sermon again for the third time now.

In the sacristy, after Mass, one of the altar boys approached the priest saying, "You preach well, Father. When will we get to hear a new sermon?"

The priest responded, "I'll preach a new sermon when I see the people acting on the old one."

The past few Sundays, Jesus has repeated pretty much the same message of love for the poor and sacrifice on their behalf. This Sunday is no different, and as we continue to read from the Gospel of Luke, we can expect more. It's enough to make us say, "Okay! Okay! We get it already!" But, I guess Jesus doesn't think we have.

At the end of Sunday's reading, the rich man calls out to Abraham to have Lazarus warn his brothers about the dangers of their luxurious lifestyle. Abraham refuses. They have already been sufficiently warned. In telling the story, Jesus intends the irony that they wouldn't believe even if someone were to rise from the dead. Jesus knows that he will rise from the dead and that still some will not believe. We've been warned, but we obviously haven't listened.

In the Eucharist, Jesus feeds us, not scraps from the table, but his very self. Just as the dog's lined up to lick Lazarus' wounds, we are fed by Jesus' wounds. We needn't fear the fate of the rich man because Jesus has bridged the chasm between heaven and hell for us so that we may rest in Abraham's bosom. But, we must listen. We must heed the warning. We dare not turn our backs on any poor person we encounter for our failure to console them now may mean future torment for us.


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