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Fr. Glenn: Caring For Lazarus

on September 29, 2019 - 7:47am

By Fr. Glenn Jones

First responders might find it interesting (hopefully edifying) to know that today (September 29) is the annual Catholic day for the commemoration of the archangels mentioned in scripture:  Michael, Gabriel and (in the Catholic and Orthodox scriptures) Raphael. Michael, of course, figures prominently in the book of Revelation as leader of angels in the depiction of the defeat of “the dragon” (Satan). Gabriel is in the Gospel of Luke and the prophet Daniel. And, finally, Raphael is a primary character in the book of Tobit. Whenever you see a depiction of an archangel, recognize Michael recognized by his sword, Gabriel by a scroll or book (he proclaimed the conception of John the Baptist and Jesus in Luke 1), and Raphael by a fish (you’ll have to read the text; it’s a really good short story and moral read anyway!)

Michael, of course, is a good example for law enforcement and military—those for whom “the sword” is an instrument when necessary in fighting evil and protecting the innocent. Gabriel is a patron saint of messengers. And, finally, Raphael is a patron saint for EMS, nurses and doctors, because in the book of Tobit, he was instrumental in curing the man Tobit. He’s also a patron saint of the blind and matchmakers; read the story to find out why.

So, you first responders and military: know that you are in our Catholic hearts and prayers this weekend. May God keep and bless you all. And thank you for your dedicated service! 

Speaking of service to others, at our Catholic Mass this weekend we had that very striking parable of Jesus of the rich man and poor Lazarus of Luke 16. For the unacquainted, the parable is of a wealthy man who ignores a beggar on his doorstep, with even dogs showing poor Lazarus greater compassion. The rich man subsequently suffers condemnation in the afterlife for his lack of charity.

Well, one of Jesus’ morals in this parable is quite clear: regard the plight of those in real need and assist them, because we are called to account for our life and how we used gifts given us.

Now, disciples of Christ know that what is given us is not given to us alone, but rather for us to aid those who are without, because as Jesus says in Matthew 25: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40) ... just as He also warns: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.” (Matthew 25:45) … telling us to cultivate a compassionate heart, and to avoid weaving a cocoon of self-absorption and self-interest. 

We also read from the prophet Amos, who wrote when the nation of Israel was split into two separate kingdoms—to the north Israel, and to the south, Judah. The people in the northern kingdom had abandoned proper worship of God and were disobedient to God’s law, and Amos condemns its leaders for this. But Amos today also excoriates the people of the southern kingdom of Judah for complacency and living luxuriously, caring little about the moral collapse of their northern kinsmen: “Woe to the complacent in Zion! / Lying upon beds of ivory, stretched comfortably on their couches…They drink wine from bowls [another translation is “they drink bowlfuls of wine”] and anoint themselves with the best oils; yet they are not made ill by the collapse of [Israel]!” What Amos condemns in the large scale, Jesus applies to every person:  that to live in luxury and yet have little concern for others is unjust at very best.

Like the Israelites in Amos’ time, we, too, become o’er comfortable, forgetting that God has provided not solely for ourselves, but to aid others. Wealth is in reality a test for us, not laurels to lay upon; they bring with them divine obligation. This is why Christ and the apostles remind us constantly in the New Testament that we are simply stewards of the blessings we receive, for Jesus tells us: “Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required…” (Luke 12:48) … and what we spend in earthly self-absorption is essentially wasted: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven…” (Matthew 6:19-20) Death is that insatiable and inevitable thief of earthly treasure, and if we have not charity, we have nothing. If we have not charity we are nothing.

The rich … the poor … equal in God’s eyes … each made in His image. Each His child. And so … will one dare to call himself “better” in God’s eyes simply because he/she is richer, smarter, more beautiful, more popular? These are not God’s standards, but ours; charity is God’s standard. Upon whom, then, will God’s greater compassion fall—the rich, or the poor? ... and the rich who help the poor. We love and admire St. Francis in his charity to the point of poverty … and yet, how few of us seek to imitate him. But isn’t that which is admirable worth imitating? St. Francis, who himself imitated Christ who had no place to even lay His head? (Matthew 8:20)

And so … the brother/sister with much must assist the brother/sister with little, just as you would expect your own children to have concern for one another. Let simplicity be our guide for living, so that we are prepared to aid others with our excess, remembering St. Paul’s famous phrase: “…those who desire to be rich fall into temptation…For the love of money is the root of all evils…” (1 Timothy 6:7-10)

And as Jesus fed the hungry, healed and visited the sick, had compassion on those in misery, forgave others, and loved God before all else … so will His true disciples also do.

Rev. Glenn Jones is the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and former pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Los Alamos.