September 25, 2022: Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Pastor’s Corner
For the Fowler family, it began as a disaster. A few weeks before her nuptial day, Tamara Fowler’s wedding was decisively cancelled. The reasons for the cancellation were personal and private, but safe to say, the event which had been several months in planning and organizing seemed completely ruined. Included in the wedding plans was a festive and elaborate reception at a local upscale Atlanta hotel. Surprised and dismayed, the parents of the bride, Willie and Carol Fowler, wondered what to do about the already-paid-for reception. Should they just continue with a celebration with family and friends? After all, it was also going to be Willie’s 70th birthday. Or perhaps they should try to negotiate a financial arrangement with the hotel? Or maybe it would be best just to consider the whole event a loss and move on? What Willie and Carol Fowler decided to do was as creative as it was generous. Contacting a local charitable organization, they offered to donate the reception to feed the homeless. But not only did they donate the meal, they offered to host the event. Instead of 200 of their close family and friends, the Fowler’s hosted 200 homeless strangers at a four-course meal they will not soon forget. Those children who were among the invited were particularly excited. According to one report, “The passed hors d’oeuvres were very interesting because the children were wondering, ‘could we take the whole tray, or do we just take one off of the tray?’ So this was an educational opportunity as well, because now they all know how to eat at a four-course meal and the etiquette involved in that.” In fact, the whole evening was such a success that it became what the family hopes will be an annual event. As Carol said, “Events are canceled, and sometimes for unknown reasons. Do not allow that opportunity to go to waste. Call up your favorite charity. Give them an opportunity to use that for people that will not have an opportunity, perhaps in life.” Generosity transformed what began as a disaster into what promises to be an annual “Fowler Family Celebration of Love.”
This kind of generosity is a wonderful example of the virtue which Jesus calls us to cultivate in the Gospel. The parable of the rich man and Lazarus might, at first glance, seem to be little more than fierce excoriation of wealth and comfortable living, and yet Christ’s message goes beyond categorizing folks into the “haves and have-nots.” The rich man is tormented in the afterlife, not because he was rich, but because he was blind to the need right at his doorstep. His lack of generosity narrows his soul and creates the chasm which separates himself from Lazarus, not only on earth but beyond.
It is interesting to note that the rich man is never personally named in the parable. He is simply called “the rich man” as if he defined himself by his wealth. While it is false to say that money is bad, the Scripture does warn: “The love of money is the root of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). The rich man is nameless because his wealth is his very identity. Conversely, the name Lazarus means “God is my help,” and highlights the very nature of God who is pure generosity. Yet, in the end, not even God’s generosity can break through the heart of those who are callous to the need around them; “If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.” (Luke 16:31)
The parable gives us good pause for reflection. The rich man ends in torment not because he was hateful towards Lazarus or committed some egregious crime. At the heart of his failure was the indifference towards Lazarus’ need. So it is for us. Every day we are faced with troubles, anxieties and problems. Such things crowd around us and threaten to narrow our view of the world. In the midst of such crisis, Christ is calling us to consider the richness that is part of our lives. At the heart of our lives is a generous God who offers us the gift of eternal happiness with him. In light of this, everything else finds it place. We are called to imitate God’s generosity, to share the blessings that we have with those who are perhaps struggling even more than ourselves. We ask our loving God to bless us with the wisdom to know our richness, the awareness to see the need at our doorstep, and the courage to respond with generous hearts.
~ Fr. Michael