National Catholic Register

Sunday Guides

Are We Jesus’ Rich Man?

User's Guide to Sunday, Sept. 29

BY Tom and April Hoopes

Sept. 22-Oct. 5, 2013 Issue | Posted 9/29/13 at 7:46 AM

 

Sunday, Sept. 29, is the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C, Cycle I).

 

Saints

Get ready for a powerhouse week of saints.

Monday, Sept. 30: St. Jerome, the great scholar who rejected the temptation of a life enjoying Roman entertainments and lived in the wilds translating the Bible. "To be a Christian is a great thing, not merely to seem one," he said.

Tuesday, Oct. 1: St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus was the French girl who dreamed of becoming a missionary and martyr out in the world — but did so within the walls of a convent instead. "My vocation is love!" she said.

Wednesday, Oct. 2: Guardian Angels. "Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life," says the Catechism (336).

Friday, Oct. 4: St. Francis of Assisi inspired others to follow him in proclaiming the Gospel in what they said and how they lived. "All the friars … should preach by their deeds," says the Franciscan Rule.

 

Readings

Amos 6:1, 4-7, Psalm 146:7-10; 1 Timothy 6:11-16; Luke 16:19-31

 

Our Take

Today’s Gospel reading about the rich man and the poor man — Lazarus — isn’t about people with a lot of money — it is about people who live a self-centered lifestyle without regard to those around them.

The rich man in Jesus’ story isn’t just rich — he is preoccupied with what he wears ("dressed in purple garments and fine linen") and eats "sumptuously" each day. Meanwhile, he apparently ignores the poverty right outside his gate in the person of Lazarus.

This story should hit home: Many Americans are also obsessed with what they wear and eat. Meanwhile, much of the world lives in poverty.

Benedictine College economics professor Rick Coronado recently described a conversation he had with his parish priest about our lifestyle in the West.

"He believed that active decisions to sin, such as the decision to be greedy, did happen, of course, but that was not the path to sin for most people. Rather, it was the simple urge to be comfortable, to make life easier for oneself and one’s family. Concupiscence, in a word. That simple impulse — pursued day in and day out, over the course of a lifetime — he had learned, unless challenged constantly, resulted in people slowly sliding away from their spiritual life and neglecting their duties to others in the neighborhood, civically."

People don’t start out seeking a high life that ignores others. First, they go into debt pursuing pleasures which seem normal to them. Then, as debt payments mount, they lose the ability to spend money on charity. They have to worry and work for debt more and more, and then they escape into more pleasures to deal with the anxiety. Soon, they find themselves dressing nicely and eating sumptuously each night, while others are in need of help.

"The Lord grieves over the rich, because they find their consolation in the abundance of goods," says the Catechism (2547). It also notes: "All Christ’s faithful are to ‘direct their affections rightly, lest they be hindered in their pursuit of perfect charity’" (2545).

Some rules of thumb: Have what you need for your state in life, not what you want, in terms of housing and cars, etc. Perhaps reserve eating out or fancier dinners for special occasions.

Find your chief joy in helping others, and save elsewhere to fund your giving — because nothing will make you happier than what you give away.

Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,

where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.