‘There Was a Man …’

User's Guide to Sunday, Sept. 25

Sunday, Sept. 25, is the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Mass Readings: Amos 6:1, 4-7; Psalm 146:7-10; 1 Timothy 6:11-16; Luke 16:19-31

“There was a man …” That is how Jesus begins the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus. It is the third Sunday in a row that we have heard Jesus tell stories that begin with those same four words: “There was a man.”

With those words, he means to indicate each of us.

Each of us will similarly be defined by our actions. We may be defined by our living for others or by our living selfishly, as the Rich Man did in today’s Gospel.

He lived dressed in royal robes, eating what he loved each night. His was very much the life described in the first reading, where the rich recline in luxury and strum on harps, like mock King Davids.

But he lived this way surrounded by poverty. Lazarus was right outside his door, homeless and covered in sores.

The Church very much wants us to see ourselves in the place of the Rich Man.

“How can we not recognize Lazarus, the hungry beggar in the parable, in the multitude of human beings without bread, a roof or a place to stay?” asks the Catechism (2463). “How can we fail to hear Jesus: ‘As you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me?’”

In the end, the Rich Man is not defined by his riches, but how he treated the poor.

The Catechism brings up Lazarus and the Rich Man again in its discussion of the Our Father prayer and how it defines us.

When we pray “Give us this day our daily bread,” says the Catechism (2831), “The drama of hunger in the world calls Christians who pray sincerely to exercise responsibility toward their brethren. … This petition of the Lord’s prayer cannot be isolated from the parables of the poor man Lazarus and of the Last Judgment.”

If we are really Christians, people for whom the Our Father is a rallying cry, than we will not only look to God for our daily bread, but we will see our daily bread as God’s, which is to be shared with all.

This is the life that will “lay hold of eternal life,” as the second reading puts it.

“There was a man” will just as often be “There was a woman …” or “There was a boy …” or “There was a girl …”

Each of our lives will be summed up at judgment not by our good feelings, but by how we actually conducted our lives. What words will follow “There was a …”?

May they show a life filled with love of God and others.

Tom Hoopes is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.

His book, What Pope Francis Really Said, is available for preorder at Amazon.com.

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