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23 September 2010

Twenty-sixth (26th) Sunday in Ordinary Time C 2010

When I was young, my grandmother had these two pictures in her house.  It was a pair of pictures of a man dying.  In the one picture, the dying man had his wife and kids by his bedside, he is holding a rosary, and the priest is blessing him.  The angels are smiling and keeping the devils at bay through the power of the Holy Trinity.  The other picture has a man dying in bed, the devils pulling at the sheets.  Satan is sitting on His throne and the man is pushing the priest away trying to hold onto a picture of his mistress while his wife is crying and the snake is wrapped around his bag of money.  Growing up, and even today, these pictures scared me.  I knew what picture I wanted to be in when I died.  If you what to get a look at them, as your leaving Mass today, I have placed a copy of them on bulletin board in the vestibule.  The Gospel today teaches the existence of hell and the terrible torments that the rich man suffers.  From this Gospel passage, the Church teaches us that hell exists, that the sufferings of hell are real, that those is hell never leave and can never cross over “the great chasm [that] is established to prevent anyone from crossing.”  Why did the rich man end up in hell?  It was not just because he was rich.  The rich man ended up in hell because he was selfish.  Poor Lazarus was not even given “the scraps that fell from the rich man's table.”  One night, a while ago, I was invited to dinner at a house run by the Gabriel Network.  The Gabriel Network helps women who are pregnant to keep their babies by providing practical assistance in terms of a home to live in, food to eat, and other things, as well as a model for family life because the house is run by a mentoring family.  The Gabriel House I visited that night included the mentoring couple and their two young children, one about four and the other was almost one.  The children had names which you do not often hear, Blase and Sebastian, because the couple took seriously the Church’s instruction to name children after saints.  The house also included two clients; two mothers who each had a daughter.  The one mother was getting ready in a few days to move out on her own.  As I watched this couple, I was amazed at the constant effort and the great sacrifice they were making not only for their own children but for the two client mothers and their children.  This young family was truly living a Catholic life, they even had a crucifix hanging on the wall to remind them of how to live a life a sacrifice in imitation of Our Lord Jesus.  Whenever, I see a family who is living out their Catholic faith, I realize how easy the life of the priest is.  The priest does not have to worry about changing diapers, the priest does not have worry about the child falling of the step ladder.  The priest can eat his dinner without interruption or having to worry about feeding the baby in the high chair.  I felt very guilty about coming back to a nice quiet rectory where I did not have to worry caring for crying children.  I remember sitting in my room one day looking at my grandmother’s pictures of a happy death and a bad death.  I noticed that the dying man tormented by the devil had no children, while the man being welcomed into heaven had his three children at his bedside.  Notice that in the Gospel, the rich man in hell said, “'Then, I beg you, father, send him to my father's house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them.”  Would not the rich man want to warn his children?  Maybe, he was SO selfish that he chose not to have any children?  Now, I am NOT saying that if you don’t have children you are going to hell; that is NOT what I am saying.  What I am saying is that within the Sacrament of Marriage, we need to open to the transmission of life in our marital relations.  The Bishops have reaffirmed the moral truth that contraception in a grave moral evil.  We cannot be self-centered and focused on our own pleasures as was the rich man in today’s Gospel.  What about those married couples whom God has not blessed with children?  I am sorry for your pain and please know that God still loves you.  God just has some something else He wants you to do with your life.  What about those who are not married or those who do not have children, or those whose children are grown?  Are we using our time, talent, and treasure unselfishly?  Are we using that extra time and money to bring ourselves and others closer to God?  The reason why the rich ended up in torment was that he was selfish.  Even in hell, his punishment was focused on the absence of the material comforts he had on this earth.  Priests need to be especially careful to curb their selfish desires. For without children, their thoughts and ideas can quite easily become very self-centered.  I need to go on a vacation, I don’t go out to dinner enough, I want a new car.  Every once in a while it is important for a priest to experience the unselfish love of a good Catholic family, it might just save him from hell.

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