Sunday, September 25, 2016

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time . . . . in Ljubljana

Am 6:1a, 4-7
Ps 146
1 Tm 6:11-16
Lk 16:19-31

The warning in the first reading from Amos is harsh.  The description of the people is contemporary.

“Woe to the complacent of Zion . . .
Lying upon beds of ivory
they eat lamb taken from the flock
they anoint themselves with the best oils . . .

Perhaps today Amos would write,

“Woe to the self-obsessed
slouched in front of their computers.
They eat fast food taken from a bag,
wear too much perfume and inject Botox.” 

The Book of Amos repeatedly stresses social and political ills in general terms.  Thus, it can be read in the context of our own time. There are social and political ills in every country. These are caused by, and contribute to, a variety of personal ills.  There are social and political sins that contribute to our human propensity to sin.  It seems that individual sin drives social sin, and social sin allows individuals more creative opportunities for individual sin. How much of our current economic situation grew out of, and is maintained by, the sin of greed, both corporate and individual greed?

“Therefore now they shall go into exile
and their wanton revelry
shall be done away with.”

Amos’ warning is a stark contrast to Paul’s letter.  Given the context of Amos’ message and the Gospel it is a pity that the second reading didn’t begin with verse ten rather than verse eleven.  Verse ten is the well-known. “For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through their craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs.”   THEN we hear Paul’s charge to Timothy in the proper context,  “BUT as for you . . . .pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness.”

It is fascinating that the line  "For the love of money is the root of all evils," is generally misquoted as "money is the root of all evil."  They do not mean the same thing.  Money itself is not necessarily the root of all evil.  Money is a necessity. Emotional attachment to money, to obtaining ever more and more, loving, adoring, or worshipping it is the root of all evil.

This evil may be on a corporate level.  Currently in the U.S. the immaculately coifed and fabulously dressed Heather Bresch, the daughter of a U.S. senator, whose compensation last year was over $8,700,000, is defending herself for increasing the price of the Epi Pen for anaphylactic shock from $100 to $600 for two. The cost of the epinephrine, the active drug, is mere pennies per dose. The rest is delivery system, advertising, costs, and of course, her obscene salary.  On the individual level, one reads far too many stories about the church secretary or the treasurer of the fire company, who diverts many thousands of dollars to his or her personal use. The love of and desire for more money, drives all of them into sin.

The parable sometimes referred to as Dives and Lazarus is unique to Luke's Gospel.  The names are important though only one of them appears in the Gospel narrative.  Lazarus, is derived from the Hebrew El azar which means “God has helped.”  Obviously the name is no accident.  We heard, “When the poor man died he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham.”  God had indeed helped him.  Tradition gave the rich man his name.  Dives is a Latin adjective for rich.  Thus Dives and Lazarus, The Rich Man and the One God has helped.  The first part of the parable describes a reversal of fortune. Upon his death Lazarus, the beggar, was carried to Abraham’s bosom. Upon his death, Dives, the man who had it all, was tormented in the netherworld.  The second half of the parable is a conversation between the rich man and Abraham.  It is instructive. 

Dives is not portrayed as a particularly bad man. He is not wicked or malevolent. True, he dressed well. He ate a rich diet and lived in comfortable surroundings. He was a man who enjoyed the rewards of his hard work. The rich man was not necessarily evil.  He was blind. He was oblivious.  He was oblivious to the suffering around him.  He didn’t notice it.  Lazarus, like the poor in our streets today, was merely a part of the landscape. He was passed by, stepped over, or avoided by crossing the street. Dives, the wealthy man, bore him no ill-will. He was not hostile. He didn't notice.  Lazarus was there but invisible.

Dives is not without merit.  He accepted that Lazarus could not cross the chasm to ease his thirst. He didn't protest.  He didn't whine.  He didn't argue.  He didn't plead.  But he wanted to prevent his equally oblivious and blind brothers from suffering the same fate. It couldn't be done. If his brothers wouldn't listen to Moses and the prophets, they would not be persuaded even if someone rose from the dead. Just like Dives and his brothers we have Moses and the Prophets. Unlike this rich man and his brothers we also have Jesus. Jesus who suffered, died and rose from the dead to save us from sin.

Why do we not listen to him either? 

Arrived in Ljubljana two days ago after an overnight flight from Boston to Munich.  Smooth and pleasant flight.  The big surprise was being able to watch the Patriots-Oilers game live. Nice win!  For Patriots fans.  After three hours in Munich spent drinking coffee I hopped Adria Airways for the 35 minute flight to Ljubljana.  Thirty minutes later I was in my room, same one as in the winter.  

The jet lag is slowly receding.  On Friday I thought I'd been hit by an 18-wheeler.  Today it feels like a smaller truck.  The weather is glorious.  It feels just like September in Boston though the nights are a bit colder.  The city is bustling during the day with tourists everywhere.  Sidewalk cafes that I thought were small and quaint are quite large.  Only a fraction of the tables were outdoors during the winter.  

I will be here until July or so.  The homily above was given at the English language Mass this AM.  I will take it over next week or so while one of the men is on an extended time in England.  

Ljubljana Castle from the Triple Bridge.  Looks different with green rather than snow or bare trees surrounding it.

The river about a block from the community.  Followed it along assuming it would take me to the center of the city.  Alas, I was heading in the wrong direction.  However, it was a nice walk anyway.

The Church of St. Peter.  I can see this from my room.  It appears to be farther away than it actually is.   

LJ is a fantastic city for night shots.  The arches are behind the Cathedral of St. Nicholas looking toward the market place.

The main plaza in front of the Franciscan Church (pink building to the left).  Many people milling about and passing through. 

An art gallery near the funiculaire to the castle.

Can't not do black and white.  Of course this not technically black and white but the effect is close.  The lamp is not 'blown out.'  Rather it appears to be a molded piece of plastic that is fully illuminated.  Pity that whoever was drinking the beer didn't finish it. 

Bicyclist was listening to a jazz group performing in front of the Franciscan Church.  The group was very good.  The woman holding the microphone had a lovely voice.  Hope they are there next Friday when I should be in much better shape to stand and listen. 

A man and his sons riding bikes along the river this afternoon.  

+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

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