The messages that this world sends out and the messages that Jesus sends out are pretty much opposed to each other. Take the issue of greatness. Our world tends to equate greatness with money, power, possessions, titles, positions of influence, etc. The poor and the marginalized, the elderly and little children are of little significance. Jesus looks at it differently. In today’s Gospel, Luke 9:46-50, “An argument arose among the disciples about which of them was the greatest. Jesus realized the intentions of their hearts and took a child and placed it by his side and said to them, ‘Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. For the one who is least among all of you is the one who is the greatest.'”
This dumbfounded the disciples for they were products of their world as we are products of our own. They had a very perverted understanding of greatness as we, too, sometimes have. We can find ourselves looking for greatness in politicians, successful business people, athletes, movie stars, even clergy, etc., while missing Jesus’ point that greatness is to be found around us especially in the humble, the unassuming and those who serve others.
I am my brother’s keeper! That’s what today’s Gospel, Luke 16:19-31, is all about.
Jesus tells the story of two men: a rich man “who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day,” and a poor man, Lazarus, covered with sores, “who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table.” Both died: the poor man went to heaven; the rich man went to hell.
During his life time, the rich man lived well but totally ignored the poor man who starved at his doorsteps. His neglect of his brother earned him condemnation. Jesus minces no words in telling us that we are our brother’s keeper. We have to 1) be aware of the sufferings of our neighbors all over the world, and 2) do what we can to assist them, certainly with prayer, but also in being as pro-active as we can possibly be. Being our brother’s keeper is not an option. Jesus tells us that it a condition of our salvation.
Today’s Scripture readings contain some important facts of life:
- Ecclesiastes tells us that life passes by quickly: “Rejoice, O young man while you are young … though the dawn of youth is fleeting … and the years approach of which you will say, I have no pleasure in them … a man goes to his lasting home … And the dust returns to the earth as once was, and the life breath returns to God who gave it.” God gives us life. We are born, we live and we die and the cycle of life continues.
- Psalm 90 tells us that “In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.” God is ever faithful, ever solicitous for our well-being.
- The Gospel Response from 2 Timothy summarizes our belief that “Our Savior Christ Jesus destroyed death and brought life to light through the Gospel.” We are not people without hope. We are people of the promise. We believe that Jesus came to save us from our sins and that Jesus died for us and rose from the dead and that Jesus is the Way to eternal life – a transformed life in the embrace of the loving God who created us.
Jesus poses some very direct questions in the Gospels. Today’s reading is no exception. Jesus says to His followers, Luke 9:18-2,
“Who do you say that I am?”
If Jesus says this to you today, what will be your response? Who is Jesus for you?
Today’s first reading, Ecclesiastes 1:2-11, has a certain pessimistic tone about it…
“Vanity of vanities … All things are vanity! … All speech is labored; there is nothing one can say …The eye is not satisfied with seeing nor is the ear satisfied with hearing … What has been, that will be; what has been done, that will be done. Nothing is new under the sun …” But the author is wrong! There is something new under the sun. There is no reason for pessimism. The Son of God has entered our world and broken the endless cycles of pessimism. Jesus is with us! Jesus is new! Jesus gives meaning and purpose to our lives! Jesus allows us to see our potential for greatness! We are His brothers and sisters, beloved sons and daughters of God, our Creator and Father. And this God is ever faithful!
Today’s Responsorial Psalm (from Psalm 90) sums it up:
“In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.”
You have been and are our refuge. You are the Way, the Truth and the Life! May we live in your Light!