Deacon Lyn's Sept 29th Homoliy
The stage is set from the first reading from the Prophet Amos. Amos was always the beloved prophet of César Chavez, Martin Luther King, and anybody who cared about the poor. Because Amos was always on the side of the poor, and against all those who were on the side of the rich. And so he is setting the stage for this gospel.
It is a parable, it is a story, it is clearly not meant to be taken historically, we have Abraham as a stand in for God, we have A God eternally torturing people, and it is simply a story to make a point. But it makes an important point, and it reveals a huge difference, a gap, a chasm, between the rich and the poor. How they cannot understand each other because they live in different worlds. The rich man is not described as a bad person, it does say that he earned his money unjustly, it doesn’t say he is mean, it just says he is totally unaware. As we say, “He doesn’t have a clue!” He is alone, he is apart, that is the temptation when we are too comfortable, and when we are on the side of prosperity and riches we can live in an isolated world. Where we not only don’t know, we don’t care. Why? Because we can buy our way out of pain. We can just make a group of people, those poor, as we used to say, those poor “On the other side of the tracks.” So the tracks are laid clear here, that the rich man lives very comfortably, throws his scraps at the feet of the poor.
Things don’t change much do they? It’s the same in our world today where in our country 1% owns more than the other 300 million put together. Sort of unbelievable that in a country that thinks it loves equality and democracy, fairness. When you and I were growing up, the top guy earned maybe thirty times more than the janitor or servant. Now it is 265 times more and that gap just keeps increasing. Interesting that we have a Congress afraid to give the healthcare to its own people that it enjoys 100 fold over. There is a huge unawareness, an uncaring, a kind of smugness about it. We call it a sense of entitlement. Exactly what we see in this rich man, I have a right to, I earned it, I deserve it!
Of course that is so opposite of the attitude of faith, where we know we don’t deserve anything! That everything is a gift! I grew up in America just like most of us a small town as a boy with white skin. A small family in Mineral City. We weren’t rich but my dad worked 2 jobs sometimes and my mom worked after we began school. It was fairly easy to get a job when I graduated from High School. Yet, all of this doesn’t mean anything in the eyes of God. Who you are is who you are in the heart of God, and that is absolutely the same. The poor man is just as important as the supposed rich man. But we got to admit sisters and brothers most of us, if we be honest, we don’t see things that way, even those of us who are poor. The reason we know that is, we know what we all admire, what we all imitate, what movies we see are never about homeless people, NO! We like celebrities, don’t we, we like rich people, we like the winners of American Idol not the losers. We all admire the top, and ignore, and even hate and despair the bottom.
So this parable is called a reversal story. It is not to be taken literally, but it is meant to be taken seriously, Don’t think that the way we have arranged the world, is the arrangement of God. So we have the great reversal, in the end the rich man is on the bottom and the poor man is on the top, that’s all. So it is setup to help us mistrust the way things look now, the way things appear and to call into question our own evaluation of things. Because we got to admit that a lot of poor people aren’t any different than the rich people they want to be rich, there just as materialistic, just as self-centered as the so called rich. I know some rich who are extremely generous, who care about the poor, work for social justice, and work for change much better than a lot of poor people do.
So it is never like it appears. Some people who are poor don’t care about immigrants, don’t care about homeless, they just care about themselves. So all of us have to be prepared to be surprised! This Gospel ends up as the Prophet Amos, critiquing the whole system. Saying the way you look at it is not the way God looks at it. The goal is to look at everything through God’s eyes. With God’s mercy, compassion, grace. Once we are able to do that it changes everything. This is why Jesus came to show us how to see with God’s eyes and act accordingly. That my friends is how we are Saved.
This Gospel, this Good News calls us to be transformed into God’s love, by looking at everything through God’s eyes. To understand this, to see this I must know that I am, at least in part, the very thing I am seeking. In fact, that is what makes us seek it! You see, God’s love cannot be found “out there” until God is first found “in here” within ourselves. Then we can almost naturally see God in others and in all creation, too. The search for God’s love and search for our true self are finally the same search Realization is only known ‘In Here” in me, and when we do, we can spot and enjoy love “Out there.” Thanks be to God! The great paradox here is that this love victory is a gift of God & yet somehow you must want it very much. There is no secret moral command for knowing, receiving God’s love, and seeing with the eyes of God, beyond becoming a loving person in mind, heart, body and soul. Then you will see what you need to see. The rich and the poor help us see correctly. Jesus did not say, “Be Right” Jesus said, “Be in Love.”