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09.25.16 Open our eyes, Lord

The following homily was written for the Homiletics course at Mundelein Seminary and is based on an extemporaneous homily originally given at St. Helen Parish in Hebron, Ind.

And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus.

It would be easy to see today’s Gospel in terms of rich versus poor. But there’s so much more to the dynamic going on here in the story of “The Rich Man and Lazarus.”

God wants us to work. He gives us talents and abilities, and sometime those gifts lead to compensation, to wealth. You can be a disciple and support your family. Those two things aren’t juxtaposed. But if you have wealth, true discipleship does require you do something with it.

And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus.

Now surely, this rich man wasn’t exactly miserly. He threw lavish parties. The wine was flowing, the food was sumptuous. He knew how to show his friends a good time.

And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus.

Maybe he didn’t see him. Maybe he was too caught up in his own life that he couldn’t see this dying man right in front of him. But he did see him. He knew him. In death he called out to him – by name. He saw Lazarus and he did nothing.

And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus.

It was a Saturday evening in July. The chapel at the monastery in Quito, Ecuador, was filled with the sounds of the Franciscan Brothers of the Poor of the Blessed Sacrament playing praise on their guitars and singing in beautiful Portuguese before the Blessed Sacrament. We had just completed our missionary work for the day. Every Saturday, the brothers opened the doors to the large baroque monastery. The homeless of the city were invited in. They were given breakfast, lunch, a place to shower, clean clothes, a haircut, a place to play volleyball, to socialize. They were treated like human beings, shown the dignity deserved them because they were made in the image and likeness of God.

I was alone in Ecuador. It was the first time in my life that I didn’t really know anyone, that I had no real support structure. I looked at our Lord and asked, “What do you want from me?”

Moments later, a subtle tap on my shoulder, then a whisper. It was Brother Bruno. “We’re going out into the streets Monday night. We want you to join us.”

Message received.

Brother Bruno knew exactly where the city’s homeless were. Paulo stays on this plaza. Sergio stays outside that bank. We have to go see Carlos, he’s just a few blocks away.

He knew their names. He knew their stories.

Brothers, how often do we see someone roaming the halls alone? How often do we see someone eating alone, while we search out that one seat left at the table filled with laughter? Lazarus is among us. He might not be waiting at our door. He might be waiting for a smile, a ‘hello,’ a welcoming invitation.

There were smiles when Brother Bruno walked up to the men and women sleeping on mattresses hewn of full trash bags. As he called out their names, they sat up. He engaged them. Others handed over a cup of hot coffee and a container of rice with a simple braised chicken leg. They ate ravenously. Simple felt blankets were given them. Then we held hands and prayed, thanking God for the many blessings of this life.

And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus.

In every Lazarus we met that night, I watched the way Brother Bruno treated them. They were Christ. So was he.

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