“Dogs even came and licked his sores…” There can be no sadder picture panted than the one pained by Luke in today’s Gospel Reading. Jesus, in response to the Pharisees who are described as loving money, tells the parable we hear today. First there is the rich man who used to ‘feast magnificently every day’. And we know that the man in this parable truly is rich. For purple and fine linen could only be afforded by the very, very wealthy. And then there is Lazarus. The poor man, covered with sores, who could have feasted on the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table.
And then finally the poor man died and was taken to the “bosom of Abraham” – the symbolic name for the Paradise all good Jewish people longed for. After his life of poverty and suffering, Lazarus goes to his eternal reward. And the rich man ends up in torment in Hades.
The rich man, after a life of plenty, died and ended in torment. And, after seeing Lazarus in heaven with Abraham, the rich man begged Abraham to send Lazarus back to warm his brothers. Abraham refused- telling the rich mam that his brothers have the two great pillars of Jewish faith - Moses and the prophets – as warning enough of what could befall them. The rich man bargained with Abraham: “but if someone comes to them from the dead, they will repent. No” says Abraham, “if Moses and the prophets made no impression, neither will someone rising from the dead.” And just as this was the message that Jesus gave the Pharisee, this is also what Jesus is telling us. We have the one who has risen from the dead – Jesus Christ himself.
Christianity has tended to maintain a healthy suspicion towards materialism, not in practice but then at least in theory. The observation that material wealth has a tendency to corrupt is as ancient as humanity itself. The First Reading from the prophet Amos offers a firm rebuke of those who resort to dishonesty for financial gain, often exploiting the poor in the process. The theme is picked up in the Gospel parable of the dishonest steward. Jesus concludes: “No servant can be the slave of two masters...you cannot be the slave of both God and money.” St Paul likens avarice to idolatry in his letter to the Colossians (Col 3:5) together with his famous admonition that “money is the root of all evil” (1 Tim 6:10).
‘Avarice’ is not a word in common currency (if you’ll pardon the pun) however it is hardly inconspicuous in the world today. Avarice (or greed) is the name tradition accords to the inordinate attachment to wealth and the desire for more. St Gregory the Great enumerates Avarice (or greed) among the seven deadly sins. Greed is spiritually ‘deadly’ because it establishes wealth as a false ‘god’ diminishing our love for and trust in the one true God, who alone can satisfy the human heart.
The nativity (birth) of the Blessed Virgin Mary has been adopted as the patronal feast of Our Lady’s Parish. The birthday of each of us invites us to give thanks to God for the gift of life and the many blessings we’ve received. In the case of Mary we have an exalted reason to celebrate her birthday, because through her God bestowed the greatest grace the world has ever known: the gift of His only begotten Son.
After Our Lord Jesus Christ, Mary occupies the next highest place in the order of creation. Before her angels, archangels and the whole company of heaven bow down in veneration. Mary reminds us that what is considered ‘great’ in the sight of men is accounted as dross by God. Wealth, beauty, status and power are inconsequential. God gazes right into the heart and measures our worth according to our capacity to love. The Blessed Virgin Mary shows the immensity of her love by her obedience and willing cooperation with God’s plan. From her perplexity at the Annunciation to her agony on Calvary, when she held the lifeless body of her Son in her arms at the foot of the cross, Mary never wavered in her trust of God’s loving plan. When darkness had all but totally extinguished the light, she gave herself with unflinching self-abandonment. How often we can say yes to God but then when things get tough, we find ourselves dragging our feet, complaining, or thinking about easier alternatives of our own devising? Mary on the other hand, never faltered. The whole of her life was lived as a ‘yes’ to God’s will.