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Homily for twenty sixth Sunday C

23 Sep 2016, by Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA in Sermons

The poor lazarusMany Christians believe that God loves the poor, the widows, and orphans more than the rich. But that idea reflects a superficial look at the scripture and a misunderstanding of the unconditional love of God. I am not in doubt that nearly 3,000 verses talk about justice and oppression of the poor in the scripture. The scriptures truly back the defense of the poor, the widows, and orphans. Psalm 34:6 tells us how the Lord hears the cry of the poor; Psalm 82 commands us to defend the poor and the fatherless. In her song of praise, the Blessed Virgin Mary indicates how God has pulled down the mighty and raised the poor. Yet, the same God raised Abraham to be great and loved him, raise David to be great and loved him, raised Solomon to be mighty and loved him and so many others today.

The love of God is unconditional, and our gospel passage this morning does not in any way deny this unconditional love of God. Jesus said to the Pharisees; there was a rich man who used to dress and feast magnificently; he had everything he wanted, and he never “lacked.” But at his gate was a poor man named Lazarus who lived and died in poverty. The rich man also died but found himself in hellfire while he saw the poor Lazarus in heaven from a distance.

What happened? Does it truly mean God loves the poor and hates the rich? Certainly not, God’s love is unconditional; he loves the rich as well as the poor. He says in 1 Sam. 2:7 that he makes poor and makes rich; he brings low, he also exults. God gives to whosoever he wishes by his riches in glory, and no one dares question him. In poverty and wealth, we are God’s beloved.

Jesus said there was a rich man dressed and feasting magnificently, but is there anything wrong with that? He was rich; he worked for his money because we are not told he stole from anyone or cheated anyone. It was his money, and he had the right to use and enjoy it. That is one beautiful gift God has given to man, the gift of freedom. From the very beginning of creation, God gave man the freedom to do whatsoever he wants. In the garden of Aden, God commanded Adam and Eve not to eat the forbidden fruit, but they had the freedom to either obey or disobey. That means. Therefore, we take responsibility for every one of our decisions and actions. Whatever we do with what belongs to us either builds us or destroys us.

The richman and lazarusIn our gospel passage this morning, the rich man was not condemned to hell simply because he was rich; neither did Lazarus go to heaven because he was poor. Wherever they found themselves depended on how they used their freedom. The rich man was blessed materially; he feasted and dressed magnificently but decided to ignore the poor Lazarus at his gate. So, the rich man was condemned to hell not because he dressed and dined magnificently but because he ignored the poor man at his gate. He decided to turn his face from the pains and sufferings of Lazarus.

On the other hand, Lazarus did not find himself in heaven because he was poor. Poverty is not a license to heaven; poor people, widows, and orphans can go to hell. Lazarus found himself in heaven because he lived a righteous life. Though we are not told exactly how he lived his life, the scripture makes us understand that the unrighteous will not enter the kingdom of God. Therefore, Lazarus made it into heaven because he lived a righteous life; he made the wise decision to remain faithful to God even in the midst of poverty. He did not depend on the saying that God especially loves the poo; he instead did what the word of God says. The rich man depended on his wealth and ignored God’s command to love our neighbors, and he missed heaven.

We that are alive still have the opportunity to make wise decisions and to correct any wrong decisions we may have made. Our spirituality involves everything about us; it’s not just about how we pray or how prayerful we are, but also how we live out the prayer.

Do not be afraid to dress and feast magnificently, but do not ignore the Lazarus at your gate.