On this Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, we again hear a parable from Jesus: Lazarus and Dives. I would like to frame my comments this week in light of the Holy Father’s recent interview published last week. I encourage you to read the interview in its entirety. The Holy Father reiterates basic Church teaching and reminds us that there are many issues facing the Church today. He encourages bringing a balance to how we live our lives as Catholics. We cannot be a “one issue Catholic.” Rather, we need to reflect upon the whole of the Church’s tradition and incorporate it into our own lives.
In today’s Gospel (Luke 16:19-31) Jesus is not saying, “Rich is bad, poor is good.” On the contrary, he is saying that when we deliberately ignore the needs of those around us, we condemn ourselves. Lazarus was right outside Dives door. He had to pass by him each and every day. (I’m reminded of the scene in Mel Brooks’ “History of the World Part I” where the French nobility literally walked on the peasants to get into their gate.) No, Dives is condemned not because he was rich, but because he failed to use his blessings to help the less fortunate Lazarus.
Let’s put this into perspective in the year 2013. For the past several years, there have been some “hot topics” that have graced the pages of both the religious and especially, the secular press: abortion, gay rights, contraception, same sex marriage, pedophilia, the role of women in the Church, etc. At the same time, there has been little information disseminated about the Church’s teaching on the rights of workers, the economy, the just war theory, nuclear armament, political activism, etc. Or if these topics are broached, they are not given the exposure that the more “juicy” topics have.
If you look at the Ten Commandments, three refer to our relationship with God (no strange gods, don’t take the Lord’s name in vain, keep holy the Sabbath) and seven refer to our relationship with other human beings (honor your parents, don’t kill, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t bear false witness, don’t covet your neighbor, don’t covet your neighbor’s goods). All are equally important, yet we focus on 6 and 9 as somehow being “more sinful” than the others.
What Pope Francis wants us to become more balanced in our focus and in our relationships with people around us. In fact, Jesus addresses our relationships with people in terms of social justice more so than he does in terms of sexual morality. I would posit that more sinful activity occurs above the belt than it does below the belt. We sin more with our brains in thinking of ways to hurt others, with our eyes in viewing inappropriate material or in failing to see the needs of others, with our ears in failing to hear the cry of the poor or in listening to falsehood, with our lips in speaking slander and gossip, with our arms by physical violence and failing to prevent abuse, and with our hearts in failing to love than we do in using our private parts to commit immoral acts.
Please read the interview with Pope Francis and reflect on it in light of your own situation. Then ask yourself the question: “In what areas do I need to become more balanced in order to truly live my life as a Catholic?”