Monday, September 30, 2013

Homily - "Live simply"

Click HERE to listen to Sunday's homily. 

Two things that came to mind when reflecting on today's readings. The first is an article from the Washington Post Magazine in April.  You probably heard about it; it's about you.  It characterizes GW students as "a bunch of rich kids". It gives examples of exorbitant spending such as $1000 bar tabs (whenever I accumulated a $100 bar tab in college, I was crushed financially), $900 tote bags, and so forth.  It sounds exactly like what we hear in the readings: "they eat lambs taken from the flock.  They drink wine from bowls and anoint themselves with the best oils" in the first reading and "a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day".

The second is a talk that we heard two weeks ago from one of our Tuesday night speakers at Newman. He was from FOCUS and gave a power point presentation of mission trips around the world.  One of the places was Calcutta, India. He showed pic of college students serving the "poorest of the poor", some of whom were shown sleeping naked or half-naked on sidewalks.  He mentioned this Gospel, and like Lazarus, dogs would lick the sores of the bodies in the streets.

I have been to Calcutta to work with the Missionaries of Charity; he is not kidding.  The sights and smells there are awful and heart-breaking; it is horrific poverty. It was really hard to see naked or half-naked kids begging us every day on the streets; just like Lazarus, they would give anything for even scraps of food. Of all the things I learned, detachment was one of the best. The poor are truly detached from the things of the world. They have nothing; everything that they receive they see as a gift from God.  There is no interference between them and God.  Those of us in first-world countries are more attached to things, and to the nicest things.  We can start to build up an attitude that we have this or we are entitled to that. We can build up interference between us and God. Attachment can be dangerous stuff; detachment can be freeing.

I think that the majority of GW students - and GW Catholics - want to be more like Lazarus than the rich man.  I say this because of one pamphlet we have at Newman, "Living Simply". We have about a dozen pamphlets, from "Heaven" to "Suffering" to different teachings. "Living Simply" is the one that gets hit the most; it is the most popular among students.  It’s a great little guide to living simply, giving suggestions on how to have the poor in mind every day. For example, it says that the more you can save up in your bank account, the more you can give to the poor.  Try to save $20 this week in going out – dinners, bars, shopping, etc.  Then, give that $20 to the poor.  That can go a long way for kids in third-world places like Calcutta.
Pope Francis is someone who lives simply.  It is so refreshing!   As a priest I really appreciate his austerity and simplicity.  And, it seems that most people do.  At “Theology on Tap” the other night at Newman, we were discussing the Holy Father.  I asked the group what they have liked the most about him.  They said his new / old Popemobile which was made in 1984, and the fact that he is not living in the papal apartments.  In other words, they really like his austerity and simplicity.  His humility overall has made him extremely popular around the world.  When he first became Pope, he said that he wanted “the Church to be poor, and for the poor”.

The best modern example of serving the poor is Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.  She saw Jesus in the poor.  She said the poor were “Jesus in a disguise”. The thing about the rich man is that he knew who Lazarus was – he called him by name to Abraham – and he didn’t ever help him.  If we do the same thing to the poor – knowing that it’s really Christ in a disguise – we will suffer the same fate as him.  But, Mother Teresa based her whole service to the poor on 10 words from Matthew 25 which indicates that serving the poor means serving Christ.  She would count these words on her 10 fingers: “what you do for them, you do it for me”.  This remains the slogan of the Missionaries of Charity; we see this every month we visit their home in DC for men and women who are homeless or have AIDS.

Mother Teresa also saw Jesus in the disguise of bread and wine.  She once said that she would not have lasted more than a week taking care of the poorest of the poor if she didn’t receive the Eucharist every morning at Mass.  That was her strength.  That was her Grace.  That is how we all can serve Christ in the poor and grow in simplicity and humility.      

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