10th Anniversary of Divine Mercy Parish, Scranton
26th Sunday in Ordinary Time C – September 29, 2019
We’re all pretty familiar with today’s gospel passage from Saint Luke: the story of the rich man and Lazarus. Most of us have a pretty clear reaction to it as well. Let’s look at the story a bit more carefully.
There is nothing in the story to indicate that the rich man was bad any more than there is any indication that Lazarus was good. There is no hint that the rich man had gotten his wealth by evil means. He was, simply put, a rich man enjoying his hard-earned wealth.
And according to the way in which Jesus tells the story, the rich man’s problem wasn’t that he was rich. His problem was that he didn’t care. He was spiritually blind. He was complacent. He saw Lazarus in need but passed him by. He simply lived his life concerned solely for himself.
The point of the gospel? People who belong to Jesus are called to something more. Saint Paul, in our second reading from his first Letter to Timothy challenges the follower of Jesus – the authentic disciple – to purse righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience and gentleness – all those virtues rooted in the life of Jesus – virtues that flow from the cross on which Jesus selflessly gave of himself for the life and salvation of the people his Father entrusted to his care: me and you!
Throughout the scriptures, Jesus make it quite clear that the choice for discipleship demands that we let go of all those empty things that we often grasp so desperately. The choice for discipleship demands that while we will never be perfect in the lives we lead, we are called to reflect the forgiving, patient, selfless love that so characterized the life and example of Jesus.
But Jesus’ reflections on the cost of discipleship prompt a question, at least in my mind. How do we measure authentic discipleship?
Jesus reminds us time and again to take care not to judge harshly as we seek to assess the presence of authentic discipleship in our lives and in others. Yet, he also reminds us that we will be judged less on the externals of religion – what we profess and how reverently we pray – and far more on how generously and selflessly we’ve loved. … “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me.”
Can you see the difference between discipleship that quite righteously talks a good line but never demands that we practice what we preach – vs. – discipleship that preaches love through the lived experience of justice, mercy and forgiveness.
So how do we measure the presence of authentic discipleship in our lives? … We surely ought to begin by honestly looking into our own hearts. … But we also ought to look at our place within this community of faith – Divine Mercy Parish – that by God’s grace celebrates its 10th anniversary. … What were you given from the parishes that came together to form this community of faith? … How have you sought to take what you’ve been given and use it to bring life to the Gospel message? … In what ways do you reflect the values of the Gospel for which Jesus gave his life?
Here are some things of which I am aware. I hope you can recognize them as well. … In this wonderful parish, you celebrate life and call one another to a profound respect for this sublime gift of God. … You work to instill appreciation for the teachings of our faith in young and old alike. … You worship and pray with great energy and devotion. … You feed families and clothe the poor. … You reach out in welcome to those who seek a way forward in hope for themselves and their families. … You work to heal bodies and spirits, you console those who grieve and seek to open hearts to the Lord.
More than you might ever imagine or admit, you have been and continue to be the voice, the hands and the heart of Jesus – faithful disciples – in so many ways. Not perfect disciples – for none of us are – but authentic enough to create the rock solid foundation upon which this house of God now rests.
You understand well these words of our late Holy Father, Saint John Paul II. “The parish is not principally a structure, a territory or a building, but rather ‘the family of God, a fellowship afire with a unifying spirit,’ ‘a familial and welcoming home,’ the ‘community of the faithful,’ … the place where the very ‘mystery’ of the Church is present and at work.”
My prayer is that you also live by these words of Pope Francis. “A community that cherishes the little details of love, whose members care for one another and create an open and evangelizing environment, is a place where the risen Lord is present, sanctifying it in accordance with God’s plan.”
What a joyful day this is as we celebrate all that God has accomplished in and through this blessed community of Divine Mercy Parish for the past ten years. Yet, this day should also remind us that the journey of faith continues for us all!
So, my brothers and sisters – give thanks – go forth in love as true disciples of Jesus – and continue to build CHURCH – the People God has called us to be!