Seeing Lazarus in our lives

By | September 22, 2010

In this Sunday’s opening reading the Prophet Amos reveals the consequences of the complacency of the Israelites who have abandoned their pursuit of God and rather have pursued the things of the world and now rest “comfortably on their couches and their beds of ivory.” They have settled for far less than what God has offered and “now they shall be the first to go into exile.” Actions or lack thereof have consequences. One could just as easily look at our own lives at times and those of our fellow

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Fr. Mark Vander Steeg

pilgrims who have grown complacent.

In this vein St. Paul exhorts Timothy, the early bishop and overseer of the church, to “compete well for the faith, to lay hold of eternal life, and pursue righteousness!” Paul throughout this passage is trying to stir Timothy to an ever more fervent zeal for God and to draw upon the grace of his ordination. Timothy has been entrusted with the care of God’s people and must himself be true to the message he preaches, lest he himself be lost.

Complacency does have final consequences. The actions we do or fail to do lead to an eternal destiny of our own choosing. Jesus tells the parable of the rich man who dined sumptuously in this life but neglected the poor man Lazarus on his doorstep. His sin was that he failed to see the needs right in front of his life. Who or what are the overlooked Lazaruses in our own lives to whom God has called us to be attentive?

On a societal level we have overlooked the vulnerable unborn child in mortal danger of abortion. We have failed to see moms and dads frightened by the arrival of life. Lazarus is also the dignity of biblical marriage under threat of revision and rejection. Lazarus could be within our own families. He may be the son or nephew, growing older quickly, in need of faith sharing and love. Lazarus may be the communication between spouses or friends that has grown sterile and lacks emotion and prayer.

Lazarus may very well be right inside our own selves. He may be our own spiritual life that has been neglected while the pursuits of job, fitness, hobby or sport have taken center stage. The soul yearns for God beyond weekly Mass. A life of prayer, quiet reflection, hidden sacrifice, committed love, bold witness and service to our neighbor salve the sores of our spiritual Lazarus. The sacraments of healing — reconciliation and anointing — are divinely instituted means of God tending our wounded Lazarus within. We, like the rich man, can live our lives without ever really seeing the needs of Lazarus right on our doorstep. The sorrow is, if we miss him, the consequences are eternal.

Questions for Reflection

1. Who or what is the Lazarus in my life in need of attention?

2. How am I, like Timothy, called to give bold witness to my baptismal faith?

3. How can I more resolutely lay hold of eternal life?

 

Fr. Vander Steeg is pastor of St. Mary Parish, Greenville, and St. Edward Parish, Mackville.

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