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9/25/16 Twenty Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Fr. Reggie

We often hear people say that they will get to heaven because they haven't committed any really, really heinous crimes. "I'm a good guy," they say, "I haven't murdered anyone or sold weapons to terrorists." This attitude is not a Christian attitude.

As Jesus teaches us in this story of Lazarus and the rich man, salvation and eternal life are not just about avoiding so-called "big" sins. That's a negativepassive approach to life.

But Christ is not passiveChrist is active. He came to earth to save us. He took the initiative. He came to seek out the lost sheep. He came to light the fire of faith in a dark world.

Being a Christian means following in those footsteps. It means much more than simply avoiding gruesome crimes. Being a Christian means living like Christ, living for his Kingdom, living for others.

Isn't it interesting that when Jesus was asked which were the most important commandments, he didn't choose the negative ones, the "thou shalt not" ones.

Instead he listed two activepositivecreative commandments: love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself.

The rich man in this parable was not an axe-murderermafia boss, or the head of a human trafficking ring. He had no particularly damaging "sins of commission" on his résumé. He was a pretty good guy. And yet, he failed to enter into eternal life.

Why? Because of his "sins of omission". Day after day, he closed his heart to a neighbor who was in dire need of help.

He spent his life becoming an expert in self-centeredness. And since the law of heaven is self-giving, he found that he was simply unfit to spend eternity there.

Sins of omission come from a habitual attitude of self-centeredness.....

One way to avoid falling into the sin of omission is simply to purposely keep our eyes open for opportunities to serve those around us.  Even making the commitment to perform at least one voluntary, selfless, Christ-like act of service every day can help keep the passive, sin-of-omission mentality at bay. If the rich man in the parable had made that commitment, he would not have ignored Lazarus day after day, and that would have made all the difference.

But we can also take another step.

Imagine if the rich man had been granted another chance, if God had sent him back to earth for another 10 years of life.

How would he have changed? Would he have simply added one selfless act of service to his daily agenda? Would he have just started to get a little more involved in his parish as a lector, usher or parish council member? No. His new perspective would change the whole direction of his life. He would have started using all his resources - money, connections, relationships, intelligence, experience - to serve his neighbor and to spread the truth about life's meaning. It wouldn't be easy, but gossipcriticism, and misunderstanding wouldn't stop him, now that he understood God's perspective. He would ignore the obstacles and seize every opportunity to build up Christ's Kingdom.

You and I have been given the second chance that this rich man in the parable never had, because Christ has revealed to us the whole story - we know how life ends and what it's all about. Today, God is asking us to make good use of this knowledge, to avoid the deadly sin-of-omission mentality, to use every ounce of our lives on earth to build up the Kingdom of Heaven - not just to avoid inconveniences and seek comfort.

Today, Jesus will give himself entirely to us in Holy Communion.  If we respond by giving ourselves entirely to him, by promising to put all we have and all we are at his service, there's one thing we can know for sure: when eternity rolls around, we will have absolutely no regrets.

 

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