This is my homily for Sunday September 29, 2013. I am a Catholic chaplain at Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU, Teaneck), FDU Newman Catholic Association, New Jersey City University (NJCU) in Jersey City. At FDU, Sunday Evening Mass is celebrated 5:00 pm during Fall 2013 and Spring 2014. at FDU Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck. Title: Truth in the Street (Rich Man and Lazarus)
29 September 2013 26th Sunday
•• Amos 6:1a,4-7 •••• Psalm 146 •• ••1 Timothy 6:11-16••Luke 16:19-31 ••
[__01-a__] This is a parable about Lazarus and the rich man.
The rich man is a fictional character in a parable by Jesus. He is a fictional person currently tormented, in eternal punishment.
A professor of mine at the seminary spoke about prayer as it related to both eternal punishment and eternal reward, our afterlife.
Such punishment is the wish for none of us. And, I daresay, we do not even wish it upon our worst enemy.
However, God gives us free will, to choose his ways or another way.
We do not know the destination of anyone for sure.
But, we can pray that no one is enduring eternal punishment, that even the rich man would have changed his ways in time.
And, we pray for those who have died that we will all be reunited one day in heaven. And, we pray that we will see the truth, the truth that the rich man of the parable misses.
[__01-b__] There is truth in the street.
[__02__] We know that the FBI, the CIA, the River Edge (or Teaneck) police detectives will true to find the truth, the evidence, the data or the DNA, of the street.
How will they gather this data, this evidence?
They might interview people at Penn Station, Port Authority Bus Terminal, JFK Airport, or Main Street ..or Kinderkamack.
Such law enforcers will canvass, collect OUTDOORS, out of doors so that they can bring the criminal mind “indoors ” to the police station or courthouse … “downtown for further questioning”.
A writer or investigative journalist will do the same. He or she will bring that data indoors to the laptop to write the book or article.
There is truth in the street. Do we have the fortitude, the motivation to recognize, to discover the truth in the street?
[__03__] We read this Sunday from the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 16.
This is the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.
Does the rich man of the parable – apparently “rolling in it” because he is dressed in purple garments and dining sumptuously each day - have the fortitude, the courage, the motivation to recognize truth in the street?
The rich man is, figuratively, on Easy Street ..but, geographically / physically would prefer to be away from pavement and asphalt entirely.
Life is better indoors. There is truth in the street.
Does the rich man have the fortitude – the courage to see, to recognize truth in the street?
[__04__] Lazarus is at his door, in his way, in the street. Physical/DNA evidence of poverty.
But, is this material evidence admissible and sufficient to draw a conclusion about what the rich man should do next?
What is the truth about Lazarus? Well, if we were to investigate in the F.B.I. database, do a criminal background check on the 2013 equivalent of Lazarus, what would we find?
We might also have seen, recently, someone living in the street, living at or near Port Authority Bus Terminal New York City or Penn Station.
Searching their history, their known addresses, their phone records, what truth would we uncover?
Would this trust motivate us to help the person in the street? We might find truth that would seem to excuse, permit us to go back indoors, to retreat.
There could be truth in the street, truth to help us withdraw, go away.
But this is not the truth which our Catholic faith/Catholic Church teaches us to find in the street.
Pope Benedict, writing in 2009, suggests that in our increasingly globalized society – a world without economic borders – this calls us to be more attentive to those who go without:
“Man's -- [the human ] earthly activity – whether in [BANKING OR MANUFACTURING OR MEDICINE …. OR AGRICULTURE…OR EDUCATION ]… , when inspired and sustained by charity (LOVE), contributes to the building of the universal city of God, which is the goal of the history of the human family.
We are on the FDU global campus, global citizens,… so the truth is also in the street …in the pathways between the Courts and Becton, the SUB and Northpointe… This truth is love, charity.
In an increasingly globalized society – or university-- , the common good and the effort to obtain it cannot fail to assume the dimensions of the whole human family, that is to say, the community of peoples and nations, in such a way as to shape the earthly city in unity and peace, rendering it to some degree an anticipation and a prefiguration of the undivided city of God.”
There is truth in the street. That we are called to lay down our lives for each other.
[__05__] So, in retrospect, in a historical review of this cold case, and any DNA evidence, it is obvious what the rich man should have done, right?
Moreover, his eternal salvation was at stake.
The truth, after all, was in the street. Lazarus himself was in the street, in his street, right in front of him.
No GPS required, the rich man does not have to “acquire satellites” to calculate a position. The truth is in the street.
[__06__] What is the STREET, to you and me?
First, the street is our transition, our journey.
FDU is our street, 4 years for most of us, shorter for some. In any case, this is a defined time frame of study. The street will have bumps, detours, delay, Nevertheless, there is a relatively clear requirement of study and paid tuition (the tolls) and exit ramp of Commencement (the destination) along with the BA, MBA, Ph. D. diplomas (DNA evidence that we did something).
Giving oneself to the process, to the journey, we discover there is truth in the street, truth gained in following through, following a method.
[__07__] However, …however .. are all of our maps and charts so clearly marked with latitude, longitude, and street address?
Someday, or even now, you will be on a street that is simply a place to discern, to decide what to do next.
And, in such a case, we are called to discover where God is…where God’s will is present.
In a recent interview, Pope Francis shared this thought on discernment of God’s will …
_· Forgiveness for someone by whom you have been hurt … where is the truth?
· · Decision about a career … or even a major … where is the truth?
· · Commitment to another person, in love, in marriage … where is the truth?
· · Raising a child .. taking care of a child … am I ready to have a child? …where is the truth?
I offer these as some practical considerations we may have…
Pope Francis summarizes the thoughts of St. Ignatius on discernment:
“Discernment,” … is an instrument of struggle in order to know the Lord and follow him …. non coerceri a maximo, sed contineri a minimo divinum est (“not to be limited by the greatest and yet to be contained in the tiniest—this is the divine”).”
This is also a thought of St. Ignatius, founder of the Jesuit order, from which Pope Francis comes… “to find God in all things.”
There is truth in the street.
[__08__] There is also truth in the street – on the journey – if we consider more than the uncertainty or fears of the current moment.
Our fears can prevent us from ever going outside. We may hesitate in making a commitment because we lack answers.
But, there is truth in the street.
As Jesus said to his disciples – sending them out into the street --- at the end of Matthew’s Gospel, “I will be with you always even until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:30)
This means, that with new and/or unfamiliar commitments, we need not have everything ready or perfect before the journey starts.
In this regard, we can see Lazarus and God’s will before us, the call to build up the city of God, both in the other person and in ourselves … globally and locally, on the way, while we are in transition.