This Sunday the gospel story tells us about two people, a rich man and a poor man it is a good reflection on the situation in the world at the present time where those who are rich are getting richer at the expense of the poor who are getting poorer. The rich man is wealthy in clothes and food; he is also rich in privilege and freedom he is free from the worry that besets those who are poor even though he was poorer than the poorest man because of the way he lived his life. You can imagine Lazarus praying: “Give us this day our daily bread.” But he didn’t get a crumb. You cannot imagine the rich man praying, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Because the privilege he has blinds him to Lazarus the man who lies at his own gate. Both men eventually died as all of us will. Lazarus went straight to heaven to the joy of endless happiness.
On the other hand the rich man fares very differently. His enjoyments are over. He is now in Hades and he is told that he can expect no relief. Abraham tells him why he is in his present state: he abused his time on earth he acted as though there would be no judgment day of course there was and he sees the truth of this. He knows that he has no one to blame but himself which adds to his torment. It is also a cause of additional grief to him that his bad example will lead his brothers that is his fellowmen to a similar fate. All the parables of our Lord are based on everyday happenings. While we hope and pray that the case of the rich man described here is not an everyday occurrence, there is no doubt that such cases have happened and will happen again especially these days when the few have so much and so many have little or nothing at all. This rich man is in eternal torment because he let his wealth become his master and forgot God and his neighbor and his own real welfare that leads us all to eternal life. There are people like the rich man in our world today, men and women young and old who completely ignore their real future. While they know that their stay on this earth is of very short duration and that they will have to leave it they still act and live as if they had a permanent home here. There is a lovely scripture verse that tells us that when the tent of our earthly dwelling is folded up we will come to our true home in heaven and this is so true.
For all of us today there is a simple question are we going to be like the rich man and ignore those around us who are the Lazarus’s of our own world. There are times when our lack of Compassion and action is our crime think of how we react to The homeless, the refugees or those who don’t have enough daily bread. All of them all worthy of our thoughts our prayers and a share of our resources. Christ, shared his riches with everyone we should do the same and not be like the rich man in the gospel story!!!
Our gospel story for this Sunday tells us about the rich Man and his dishonest steward. The steward who looked after his master’s estates is accused of wasting his employer’s goods; he is dismissed, but before he goes he must submit the final account of his stewardship. In this time of crisis the steward takes firm and immediate action to ensure his own future. He is praised not for his dishonesty, but for his resourcefulness in coping with an emergency with such speed. If a dishonest man can use his employer’s money to ensure there will be people to welcome him when he’s out of a job, how much more should honest people use their money in such a way that they will be welcomed into the kingdom of God when they arrive there. This parable invites us to examine our use of material possessions. One of the central themes in Luke’s gospel is the suspicion Jesus conveys towards worldly wealth.
Material things can divert our attention and in some cases they can take the place of what truly matters in life. These particular words of Jesus are a warning to those who follow him on the road to heaven, the warning is that we shouldn’t be the slaves of earthly things and this is applicable to all of us. Most of us may feel that this warning is for millionaires and business magnates. Our Lord didn’t say who he was warning and his words at all times are meant to be a challenge for all of us where we are. What Jesus warned against was not the just acquisition of this world’s goods but their unjust acquisition, and the dishonest use of them when they were justly acquired. There are wealthy people in Luke’s gospel who seem to follow the thrust of the parable and make wise use of their time, their talents and their wealth. They use their possessions to serve Jesus as sons and daughters of God.
Stirred by teachings like today’s gospel story they decided to act quickly and decisively to help others and journey with them in their time of need. This gospel story gives us an example of someone who knew what he had to do in a crisis situation and Jesus asks all of us to remember no matter what situations we might find ourselves in that we shouldn’t become slaves to the processions or wealth that we might have and that we shouldn’t be afraid to use whatever our resources are for the good of everyone especially those in need and there are many people who are in need around us these days.
In our reading from the Gospel of Luke on this Sunday we hear the story of the Prodigal Son. This story is about 2 things the mercy of God the Father as well as being about us seeking the mercy of the father. Many people today become so entrenched in their opinion on many subjects that they see no other point of view apart from their own and find it impossible to come back or start to take the steps to return. At times the steps necessary for our walk back to the Father may seem too many and too arduous for us and we hesitate even to make the first move. Perhaps it is only when we see, like the Prodigal Son, that we are then willing to rouse ourselves to say sorry and to take the path of conversion that leads to the merciful embrace of our heavenly Father.
When we make even the slightest effort in sorrow, with God’s grace, it is then we see the Father waiting with love to embrace us and welcome us home. Rejection of the love and presence of his father, in the communion of life and love as a family, was a terrible choice for the prodigal son. He desired things over people, his share of the inheritance in preference to a life in communion with the father who gave him life and loved him. He wanted the father to be as if dead to him. Having said that let us remember that God celebrates every time that we return to him. Jesus said, “I tell you that there will be more celebration in heaven over one sinner who repents then over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.” The tax collectors and sinners did not come to hear the Pharisees and scribes, because they knew that they would find only judgment. They came to hear Jesus, because he was happy that they wanted to change their lives.
God did not give up on them and he does not give up on us as well. He will not give up on us, calling us to him personally Seeking us out. Nor does He give up on anyone, even those who have been far from the faith. He calls us all to join Him in the joy of His Presence, the Joy of the Banquet of the Lord. The return of those who have had been away is a time for celebration. The cause of their leaving no longer matters. They have returned. The family is back together. We need to celebrate. We need to remember that no matter who we are or what we have done that all of us need the loving mercy of God in the same way as the prodigal Son needed the mercy of his Father who welcomed him back with open arms.
This weekend there are a number of protests taking place in Belfast against Abortion being brought into Northern Ireland. If we had a working assembly this would not be happening in this way as I do not believe that it is the will of the people of Northern Ireland. We pray for our Politicians and the people they represent at this difficult time in our history in terms of what is happening in Northern Ireland regarding Abortion and Brexit.
In this Sundays first reading the author of Wisdom reflects that it is hardly surprising that we have trouble figuring out the intentions of God when we have so much trouble figuring each other. He warns: “It is hard enough for us to work out what is on earth, laborious to know what lies within our reach.” There are times such as these when those within our reach puzzle us. And even though God has revealed himself through his Holy Spirit, nobody can claim to fully understand the mystery that is God. We still have much to figure out in so many things especially the things that relate to God.
In the Gospel there is plenty of figuring out to be done too. Jesus gives people notice that they have to work out for themselves if they are equal to the demands of discipleship. That means that first they have to figure out the cost of discipleship, then consider whether they have the resources to meet that cost. To drive the point home, Jesus uses twin parables Anyone intending to build a tower would “first sit down and work out the cost”. If he started without finishing, the sum of his achievement would be a monument to his own stupidity. Likewise, the king who discovers that his forces are outnumbered would “first sit down and consider” whether the opposing arithmetic is too heavy. If he wants to be a smart survivor he will practise his speeches on the wonders of peace! In both instances the advice is clear: take the time; sit down; look at the demands; figure out whether you can honestly meet them. Much of our lives involve figuring out what is within our reach and what we ourselves can realistically achieve. Jesus knows that his disciples must prefer following him to following in their fathers’ footsteps.
He calls them away from the primacy of the family because discipleship means a new and all-consuming loyalty. It means following Jesus who makes his way of love with the cross on his back. So the moral for all of us in these days of uncertainty around so many things that matter is that when we come to make life changing decisions we need to stop and do what this gospel tells us and that is to take the time; look at the demands the decision to be made will make on us as individuals and communities; and figure out what is within our reach and what we can realistically achieve that will help us to go forward in faith and in hope rather than backwards in fear. In these days when so much is at stake let us redouble our efforts in Prayer and action to make those who are responsible for the mess that we are in sit up and take notice so they will make good decisions for the common good of everyone based on proper consideration of what is possible rather than some unachievable ideal that will never happen.