Homily for Sept 26


Twenty Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time C 2010
McKendree College Homily
(the parish homily was modified to fit the stewardship of time and talent)

Jesus only told half the story about Lazarus; Jesus said nothing about what led to the downfall of Lazarus.  Lazarus was born into a high middle class family.  As the youngest child, he was used to getting his way.  He was spoiled with attention, toys, and games.   He was not an intelligent child; to make up for it he would raise terror at school.  His classmates were scared of his tactics.  Every week there was at least one classmate being stuffed into a locker or receiving a swirly.  His teachers despised him because of his attitude and the way he spoke to them.  In high school, Lazarus started smoking joints and he didn’t think anything of it.  A bright spot in his life was Clare.  Clare was beautiful, sweet, and saw much potential in Lazarus.  They started dating and married shortly after their high school graduation.

Life seemed to be going well for Lazarus.  After their first year of marriage, they had a baby girl.  Over the next five years, they had one boy and another girl.  Lazarus even received a promotion at work.  One day, Clare returned home early from a night of shopping and she was shocked at what she saw; there was her husband inappropriately abusing their oldest daughter.  Clare did the right thing and called the police.  

The court sentenced Lazarus to ten years of prison.  Upon his release, Lazarus could not find a suitable job.  Lazarus worked odd jobs but as quickly as he would receive money, Lazarus would spend it on alcohol or drugs to cope with the pain.  Day after day Lazarus would heckle the rich man.  “Come on, can’t you spare a few coins?”  The rich man cared a great deal about people; in fact, he even established a million dollar endowment at the local Catholic grade school.  He knew who was deserving of the money and he also knew the money he gave Lazarus would be wasted on drugs.  Even when the rich man gave Lazarus money, Lazarus would urinate on his lawn or leave behind his waste. 

Lazarus was a pest.  He reeked of urine, sweat, smoke, and dirt.  No one could stand to be around him because of his smell.  He never bathed and sores broke out all over his body.  He was unappreciative of any help that anyone gave.  When he came to the church for a meal, he would be upset if they did not have the particular lunchmeat he wanted that day or if they would not cook him a grilled chicken sandwich when all the others were satisfied with their cold sandwich and chips. 


Now that you know the full story, would you help Lazarus?  Who deserves heaven and who deserves punishment? 

Twenty Fourth Sunday In Ordinary Time C 2010

We hear the parables so often, they no longer shock us; we think they are nice stories.  The prodigal son parable means that we can always return home.  As the old Motel 6 commercials said, “We’ll keep the lights on for you.”  The parable of the lost sheep is about how God searches us out when we are lost.  Artists paint pictures with Jesus holding that sheep or the father welcoming back the son.  Maybe our familiarity with these parables means that they do not evoke the proper response; maybe the parables need to be complicated for us to recognize a hidden meaning.  Maybe life is complicated and the parables need to show the complexity of life.

The parable of the lost sheep:  Imagine a sheep that was a bully to all the other sheep.  It would eat all the food while the others went without.  This bully sheep would never gain any weight and it was constantly coming down with disease.  The wool it produced was unsellable because of its poor quality and it was always dirty.  That one sheep cost a small fortune to raise; it would constantly start fights and knock down the fence.  If that one sheep ran away, would the owner seek it out?  Wouldn’t he be happy to have it gone?  Would the owner leave his other sheep unattended and put them at risk all for this worthless sheep?

The parable of the woman with the lost coin:  It was just a penny; not even a clean shiny one at that.  Never mind this woman has thousands of dollars in the bank, expensive artwork, a full pension.  The penny had no particular significance; she was just a miser.  Imagine her dog knocked the penny off the table and it rolls under the couch.  She can’t find it so she calls her daughter and grandson to come find that missing penny.  They offer to give her another penny but she will not have it.  She has to have her penny back.  Would we think this woman is rational?

The parable of the younger son:  That younger son was quite the wild child.  He was constantly in the principal’s office for picking fights, cussing out the teachers, and skipping school.  He wrecked the family car by speeding around a sharp curve.  He got in trouble with the law for stealing beer from a convenience store.  Finally, when he turns of age he tells his father that he wants his inheritance now.  He basically said that he wanted his parents dead and they were only useful for what they could give him.  So this son got the farm property and sold it to his father’s farm rival.  His father had to go and buy the property back at a huge premium.  This son left home when his mother was undergoing cancer treatment.  When he left, she died from a broken heart.  Why would her husband, this boy’s father ever consider welcoming him back?

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time C 2010

I have a deep passion for philosophy which means, love of wisdom.  There are many branches of philosophy such as ethics, metaphysics (being in so far as it is being), and epistemology.  Epistemology is our theory of knowledge.  For a philosopher it is not enough to know, but how do we know what we know? 

In today’s first reading from the Book of Wisdom, we here a religious thinker struggling with the problem of knowledge.  The author recognizes that we have limited knowledge of things around us.  He or she then asks how then can we have knowledge of the true God or God’s plan for us?  If we cannot grasp what should be most apparent to us, then how could we ever know anything about God?

Throughout the centuries, many Christians had different understandings of our knowledge of God.  There are two main schools of thought; the cataphatic way and the apophatic way.  The catapatic way is most familiar to us; it uses words and images to describe what God is like.  When we were children, perhaps we asked our father or mother what God is.  If they were astute, they would tell us that is a good question and we should ask mom or dad.  Eventually, one of our parents would use images to describe God.  God is like a mighty fortress, God is like a loving mother, God is like a rock, God is like a Lebanon cedar.  We use these words and images as analogies.  Even though we cannot describe God perfectly, the things that God created bear some resemblance to their Creator. 

The other way to approach God is the apophatic way and it is found in Denis, Gregory of Nyssa, and even some readings of Thomas Aquinas.  They believe that God transcends his creation.  God is not wise because we only understand wisdom on a human level.  God is not a super-wise human but God is wisdom itself.  Our own understanding of wisdom fails to understand God’s wisdom.  The same thing is true of God’s goodness.  Our conception of goodness is not how God is good.  Since our categories are too limited, we should not apply even the good ones to God because God transcends them.

I think that is what the author of today’s first reading is trying to express.  The more we attempt to think about God, the more we recognize that God transcends our thoughts.  But we are not people left without knowledge because of God’s gift.  Where our human intellect fails us, God sends his Holy Spirit among us and gives us knowledge of himself.  We did not have to seek God out; rather, God has sought us out and given us the gift of his very being. 

Each of us has knowledge that we may not be aware of.  For instance, if I were to ask you to describe your mother you could tell me that she loves ice cream or drives a Mercedes.  Those facts, those propositions about your mother are not your mother.  Propositional knowledge is rather weak.  If I were to ask you why you chose someone as a best friend you may tell me a story about how they were there in a difficult time in your life.  This story would communicate the knowledge we derive from personal presence rather than by propositions.  Here we encounter the God who loves us in the community of faith and in the Eucharist.  We have personal experience of God and are called to share the knowledge we have of his presence with others.  At this Eucharist, we approach God with our feeble minds, our bodies, and our souls.  We give back to God everything that God has blest us with.