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March 20: Homily of Fr. Wilfredo Dulay MJ

HOMILY: 2014 Province Chapter

By Fr. Wilfredo Dulay MJ

March 20, 2014 

Thursday 2nd Wk Lent A


1.    Jer 17.5-10

2.    Lk 16.19-31

Lazarus and the Rich Man


1.    It is well known that the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man was instrumental in the conversion of the theologian and Nobel Prize winner Dr. Albert Schweitzer. The Lazarus of the parable came to represent for him the people of Africa, rendered a crippled beggar by Western colonial exploitation.

Nowadays it is common knowledge that Europe cannot be the Europe that it is without having plundered black Africa. Back then only a few have come to the level of awareness that unjust exploitation was the other name of colonization. Among them was the Schweitzer couple. Thus, in 1905, with the resoluteness of the converted he turned his back on a life of leisure and culture to take up medical studies and dedicate his life to care for the sick of that continent. In 1913 he and his wife, with their son Peter, set off for Gabon and founded a hospital for the maimed, the lepers and other sick and marginalized black Africans. Probably because Dr. Schweitzer preceded us by more than a century (born 1875) most of us are unaware or have forgotten his quiet but heroic service to the poor victims of exploitation. Though, in fact, he is also modern history since he died only in 1965 at the age of 90.

2.    It is not hard to recognize whom Lazarus would be representing today. We can readily find them in the slums of Manila, Calcutta, Cairo, and Rio de Janeiro. They are to be found in almost all the urban centers of the countries of the so-called Third World, not to mention those living in the rural fastness of those very same countries. The poor and the downtrodden have multiplied. We see them everywhere. What, perhaps, have become scarce, more difficult to find are today’s counterparts of Dr. Schweitzer and his wife.

3.    It is interesting to note that our parable does not depict the Rich Man as altogether evil, but somebody who is all taken up in his rarefied world of riches and luxury – “dressed in purple and fine linen and feasted magnificently every day” – as one so caught up in his good fortune as to become blind to the needs and suffering of others. He failed to recognize the humanity of Lazarus. Lazarus for him was part of the scenario, a fixture in his inanimate surroundings, not a person who could feel cold or hungry, or be lonely and sad, like him.

4.    We are probably shocked by Abraham’s response to the request of the Rich Man “to send Lazarus to my father’s house, since I have five brothers, to give them warning so that they do not come to this place f torment, too.” Abraham, our father in the faith, tells him that if they didn’t listen to Moses or the prophets, they won’t be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead to warn them.

5.    The Rich Man missed the point that Lazarus was Moses, he was the prophets sent to warn him and his brothers. The Rich Man was too busy with himself and his wealth, and fine living. He failed to see that through Lazarus God was offering him life eternal. His wealth has irretrievably distanced him from salvation.

6.    All too frequently the rich and the powerful fail to see, to notice that God has sent the poor to open the eyes of the rich, as his messengers of the Good News. Didn’t Jesus say “the poor will always be with you?” Most refuse to pay attention. Very often the distractions of wealth numb their hearts disabling them from recognizing the reality that the excessive wealth of some causes poverty and misery in others.

7.    By the poor of the land God teaches us compassion, and it is with them and through them that the rich shall find God and their salvation.

8.    Quite often because of our minimal involvement with the marginalized sectors of society we religious begin to entertain the illusion that we have become poor. The reality is that most of us have become rich collectively, sometimes even personally– upper class, at least middle class. It might be good to become more aware, more conscious of our blessedness when we are called or challenged to engage in some missionary or pastoral work among our poor brothers and sisters. This is sheer grace preventing alienation from our prophetic commitment to be on the side of the poor and share their poverty.

9.    I pray that the new provincial leadership of the Religious of the Good Shepherd continue and renew their commitment to the poor of this country: to be with them, and, if at all possible, become poor as they are poor, and begin to constitute what Pope Francis has called “a Church which is poor and for the poor.”

10. Maybe we could fittingly conclude this reflection with a quote from Albert Schweitzer himself who found true happiness in serving the poor of Africa: “One thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve”.

-          w.t. dulay, mj