My friends, in my absence last weekend, parishioner Nancy Miller gave us this homily. I am sure you will be inspired as was I. Thanks Nancy!
I have some thoughts on the readings. My first thought after I finished the readings was, “Boy, Amos was not a fun guy.”
He was criticizing people for having nice furniture, good food, wine, playing music. If those thing are bad, then I’m in trouble. But his concern was not just with the things. He criticizes those around him who don’t care about the fall of Joseph. They don’t care about what’s happening in their own country.
And what was happening in their country? I found this earlier passage from Amos:
Yes, I know how many are your crimes, how grievous your sins. Oppressing the just, accepting bribes, repelling the needy at the gate.
Now, I’m getting it. I watched Law & Order. I know what happens when a judge accepts a bribe — the guilty go free, and the innocent are punished. The rich feel that they can do anything they want, break any law, and all they have to do is wave some money at the judge, and they are free to go; while the poor feel that there is no justice for them.
And, not only are they denying the poor justice, but when the poor and needy come to their gate, they say, “There’s nothing for you here. Go away.”
And that’s why Amos was angry; that’s why he was pointing out the good food, and the nice furniture. “You have so much, and yet, you’re telling those in need to “Go away.”
Jesus was concerned with much the same thing in his story. Except where Amos was going into the temple swinging a 2 by 4, and saying, “You’ve done this and that,” Jesus said, “Let me tell you a little story…” There was a rich man, and how rich was he? He was so rich he wore a purple robe. At one point, only royalty were allowed to wear the color purple. Maybe, it was any expensive dye, and only the very wealthy could afford it. But this man was not only rich, he was an important member of society. And, he got up every day, in his nice house with nice furniture, and had a good meal, and he walked out the door every day, and there was Lazarus on his doorstep. Lazarus was poor, hungry, thirsty, and sick. What did the rich man do? I can see him, walking out of his door, and stepping over Lazarus, and going about his business. Did he ever offer Lazarus one act of kindness? No, apparently not. Because in the afterlife, he went to the bad place, and Lazarus went to the good place. So, not even a single act of kindness.
I’m going to take a detour now. My favorite book is A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. These readings reminded me of Ebenezer Scrooge. When Scrooge was talking to the ghost of Jacob Marley, he could see that Marley was distressed and tormented. And he offered some words of comfort, “Jacob, you were always a good man of business.” Marley replied, “Mankind was my business.”
I have another story which I got off the Internet, so who knows if it’s true or not. There was this person who lived and worked in a big city. Every day, on his way to work, he saw homeless people near his office building sleeping in the doorways, some sleeping on the sidewalk. And this person was inspired to write an open letter to his city. In this letter, he explained about seeing the homeless every day, and he suggested that his city might want to come down and clean up the area. He wrote, “I’m a productive citizen, and I make a valuable contribution to this city. And those people do not. And I shouldn’t have to look at this every day.”
In Paul’s letter to Timothy, he said, “Don’t be like that. You want to be kind, loving, and faithful.”
I don’t want to be like the people Amos was talking to. I don’t want to be like the rich person Jesus was talking about. I don’t want to be like Ebenezer Scrooge. And I know I don’t want to be like the letter-writer.
I have one last story to tell. Again, I saw this on the Internet. There was a person who lived, and worked in a big city. Every day going into work, this person saw homeless people on the sidewalk near his building. This person happened to be a hair stylist. He asked himself, “What can I do? I’m not a politician; I’m a hair stylist!”
One day, inspiration came. The hair stylist got a mover’s dolly, and loaded up a small, portable sink and a chair onto it. And he rolled the dolly out to the sidewalk. He walked over to the homeless people, and said, “Hi. I’m a hair stylist. I have a sink and chair right here. Would you like for me to wash, cut, and style your hair?”
Some people thought he had lost his mind, but some took him up on his offer. One man had a lot of hair, coming down over his shoulders and a long wild beard. Think of Hagrid in the Harry Potter films, that’s what the man looked like. The stylist washed all the man’s hair; gave him a haircut; trimmed his mustache; and trimmed his beard. After he was all done, the stylist handed the man a mirror, and asked, “Well, what do you think?”
The man looked at his reflection in the mirror, and said, “My God! I look human again.”
That’s who I want to be like.
Those are my thoughts on today’s readings.