This weekend is the kick-off weekend
for our Diocesan Annual Appeal.
Bishop John sent out a homily that can
be used at all the masses this weekend.
And I think it is a powerful homily.
Here is Bishop John.
For some reason,
I have a special fondness for the prophet Amos.
He was not the only prophet who
was hesitant and even reluctant to
be a prophet for the Lord,
but he was quite honest about it.
He knew some prophets,
the official ones,
who hung around the temple.
Those prophets tended to say what
they were expected to say;
they never ruffled feathers or had
words of challenge for the powerful—
even when they were exploiting the weak.
Amos, on the other hand,
would rather tend sycamores and flocks,
but was compelled to speak God’s word—
without holding back.
In today’s first reading he describes
people of leisure,
almost choking on their abundance.
Comfort has become the highest value to them,
but they are not moved by the suffering of another—
especially one from a different background or social class.
Jesus seems to be more in line with the style of Amos,
who doesn’t mince words and is
not especially worried about
offending the comfortable.
In Luke’s Gospel—
we find the clearest evidence of Jesus’
own preferential option for the poor.
We know that the community that
received Luke’s gospel was pretty affluent,
and that very affluence was an impediment to
the conversion that the Gospel invites.
The story of Lazarus could have been
written in our context as well.
It has features both expected and unexpected.
Unfortunately we are not scandalized by
the fact of excessive wealth and
dire poverty existing side by side.
The rich man’s daily life couldn’t be
more different from the circumstances of Lazarus,
who longed for the scraps from the
rich man’s table and whose health care plan
consists of stray dogs licking his wounds for comfort.
But the contrast is just as great in the
gospel’s description of the arrival of their deaths.
The rich man dies.
And he finds himself in a place of torment.
Lazarus dies and is carried off gloriously
by the angels right to the bosom of Abraham.
Despite their new-found circumstances,
the rich man still doesn’t get it.
He thinks he,
from his position of wealth,
can continue to order Lazarus around—
even send Lazarus to warn his brothers.
The rich man is reminded that he
had his reward,
and the plight of Lazarus did not concern him then.
The chasm between his comfort and
Lazarus’ need was replaced by the chasm
between his suffering and the
glory that Lazarus now experiences in Paradise.
We don’t have to think too hard to
understand this teaching;
like Amos’ words,
it is pretty direct.
God is not condemning material wealth,
but condemning the indifference of those who
enjoy such wealth but are blinded to
the needs around them,
or unmoved when they see such need.
The rich man even knew Lazarus’ name,
he saw him day after day,
but he wasn’t moved to share from
his superfluous abundance.
As a Church,
our official teaching affirms a
preferential option for the poor.
the poor have a special claim on us and
we have an obligation towards them.
While we can’t claim to have exercised this
option perfectly in every place and time,
we certainly know of many opportunities to do so.
Right in our diocese,
we have people who live something like the
rich man in the Gospel.
And we have many Lazaruses at the gate as well.
As a diocese,
we regularly provide for the
basic needs of people in our community whose
circumstances are like Lazarus.
Even our parishes which are more materially blessed
provide support to the struggling communities,
which is how it should be.
This week’s readings invite us to examine our
conscience about our material comfort and
about how much we help those in need.
What a great opportunity for introducing our
Diocesan Annual Appeal, One in Christ!
In your name,
your Church provides outreach throughout
the territory of our diocese.
The Annual Appeal supports
ministries of direct service,
but also provides formation in
our Church’s teaching for those offering the service,
it helps us to implement our
diocesan plan of evangelization,
providing sacramental ministry,
faith formation and stewardship.
The annual appeal supports our seminarians,
candidates for the diaconate,
our retired priests,
it supports youth and campus ministry,
support to rural parishes,
Catholic Charities and so much more.
Some of you received a giving envelope in the mail—
If you didn’t,
please take the envelope as you leave Church today—
And prayerfully consider how you will support Lazarus,
how you will help overcome indifference,
how you will use your resources great or small to
support the work of the Church,
in the Diocese of Lexington.
As a Church we are not indifferent to
poverty and suffering around us;
with your support,
we can alleviate so much suffering and
build a stronger Church.
Bishop John Stowe, OFM Conv.