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Bishop's Homily for the 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time

September 28, 2019

[Saints Peter and Paul Church, Honolulu (50th Anniversary of Parish)]

We are all very painfully aware of a host of Lazaruses at our doorstep.  We can hardly walk or drive anywhere in town without seeing homeless individuals or a homeless encampment.  We may have various reactions to this situation, but I do think we are all concerned in one way or another.  I am actually very impressed with how many people are reaching out to the homeless through feeding programs, shelters, and rehabilitation programs of various kinds.  So, while I know there is much more we can all do, I am not sure we could be accused of totally ignoring the Lazaruses at our door, unlike the rich man in the gospel.

However, not all our benefits and blessings are material, and I think we also need to allow this gospel to challenge us to see if we are sharing the great spiritual blessings we receive in our Catholic faith with others, or whether we are simply ignoring them and letting them starve to death on the lack of spiritual guidance and joy that comes from us.

Here we are at the most sumptuous banquet of all.  There is no restaurant or home anywhere that serves us the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation.  It is here at this Eucharistic banquet that we physically encounter the risen Lord Jesus, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity.  We surround our banquet with rich clothing, beautiful music, and an inspiring environment.  If the rich man’s banquets described in the gospel were sumptuous, they were nothing compared to this wonderful sacrificial banquet to which we have been invited.

We are enriched by this encounter with Jesus, the living Word of God.  He can heal us of our selfishness and sins.  Here he can inspire us to sacrifice for one another, just as he did for us.  Here he can teach us that, even when life is filled with suffering and sorrow, it can have tremendous meaning, and we never need to despair of his love.  He loved us in spite of the sorrow and rejection he experienced, and inspires us to do the same.

But the question is:  Do we hoard these riches for ourselves, while Lazarus languishes at the gate?  Perhaps in this case, Lazarus may not even know how nourishing this banquet can be to his or her soul.  How many of our children suffer because their parents have bought into the notion that love is to be self-fulfilling, and once they have to sacrifice, they look for love somewhere else?  We have the riches of knowing the God who has loved us even when we are unlovable, and who is so committed to us that he suffered and died for us.  How many have become addicted to drugs or alcohol because they find life just too much to bear and feel the need to anesthetize themselves?  Yet here we come to know someone who teaches us how to suffer in love and joy the difficulties that life inevitably brings, because he shows us that death and sin need never have the final word.  How many live only for themselves and therefore inevitably find life boring or meaningless, while Jesus teaches us that engaging in his mission of bringing life, justice, and peace to the world is what fills us with life and joy?

If we look at the root causes of poverty, we might be surprised to learn that they are not primarily economic disadvantages but rather spiritual poverty, a lack of respect for life or for the environment that sustains us; an over-emphasis on the fulfillment of the self, rather than a sense of mission and service to others; the breakdown of the family; or treating children as if they were our own possessions rather than as the beautiful gifts they are.  And what is the antidote to these spiritual ills that corrupt our culture and put all of us into a kind of hell?  None other than this rich, sumptuous banquet of the Body and Blood of Christ for which we have gathered.  How blessed were are!  But how will Lazarus know of the healing power of Jesus unless we go out and invite him to know Jesus?  How will he be nourished with food that will not perish, unless we go out from here and share it with him or her?

As we celebrate the Fiftieth Anniversary of this parish, we thank God for all the people who have gone before us, for all who are here now, and for all who will follow us.  But it is so easy for us to be taken up with the riches with which we are blessed here, while taking little account of the Lord’s challenge – the mission he gives to all the baptized – to go out to those who are spiritually starving and to offer them light, love, mercy and joy – not attributes we can give on our own, but gifts we can give in abundance because we know and worship the great Giver of all that is good.  It is our call to look at the many hungers of Lazarus so that here and now, the dwelling the Lord wants to establish on the earth can be built strong and beautiful; and so that our parishes become places where we are sumptuously fed, but from which we go out to feed all who are hungry for the Lord and his love.