My dear brothers and sisters gathered here this morning, we come together to join our Religious Sisters of Charity in their celebrations. We are giving thanks to God together with the sisters for His goodness to them as they commemorate the Bi-Centenary of their Congregation.
They are also acknowledging the declaration of their foundress, Mary Aikenhead, as Venerable and are also celebrating the amalgation of Zambia and Malawi as one Region in the Congregation. It is indeed a joyful occasion that calls for thanksgiving.
In the Gospel we have heard the striking parable, where we find a double contrast, in a reversed situation. The first difference, is between a rich man, who dresses in fine clothes and feasts magnificently, and a beggar, who lies on his door covered with sores. The second contrast is still between these two characters, but after their death: the beggar found himself in the embrace of Abraham, that is, in the heavenly joy: the rich man on the other hand, found himself in hell, in torment.
With this twofold difference, Jesus wants us to keep watch against our egoism. To a certain extent, we can say that the rich man never did anything bad: he was feasting sumptuously, and this is not a sin. But not doing something bad, is not sufficient, for a person who wants to live in faith and in Christian charity.
Jesus in the Gospel, gives us a rule, not only that of not doing to others that which we wouldn’t like to be done to us, but also that of doing to others what we would like to be done to us.
The rich glutton neglected to do the good which he should have done. The poor Lazarus “was sitting on the door covered with wounds, longing to fill himself with what fell from the rich man’s table”, but the rich man was entirely unconcerned about all that, he left him in that miserable situation: thinking that it was not his responsibility to take care of the poor. The dogs proved to be more compassionate than the rich man: they were licking the sores of the beggar, while the rich man was doing nothing due to his comfortable and silent complicity.
In reality, the Church tries to meet the needs of the poor. From its foundation, it has always had this concern, and many men and women who have heard God’s call have willed not to be on the table feasting and enjoying what they possess, but have chosen to be joyful with what they find in the poor, that is, Christ.
Even your Foundress Mother Mary Aikenhead, inspired by the Holy Spirit, had profoundly expressed this concern and love for the poor in your motto: “Caritas Christi Urget Nos”. It’s the Holy Spirit who enriches the Church with different Charisms to renew and enrich all peoples. Therefore on this occasion of the Bi-Centenary celebration of your Congregation, we can acknowledge that your motto continues to inspire you as you contribute positively to the lives of the poor people bearing in mind the signs of times as you respond to the new challenges. In these hundred years of your presence in Zambia and particularly in your service to the poor in the areas of education, pastoral work and health care, you have strived to actualise your love for the needy. Today we thank the Lord who has sustained you in your mission and has granted you the grace to support the weak, to solace the wounded, to refresh the weary, and to draw the tempted away from danger.
Therefore my dear Religious Sisters of Charity, as you celebrate these special events, especially during this year that is dedicated to consecrated life, I would like to bring you back to the words of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, who urged all the religious to “awaken the world”. This implies, remembering the past with gratitude, living the present with passion and embracing the future with hope. My dear sisters, the level of gratitude that you have when remembering the past will make you live the present with passion. It should transform itself into passion for the present. Looking at how your foundress responded to the word of God can help us to reflect more and to imitate her.
Also the conclusion of the parable shows us the necessity of listening attentively to the word of God, that urges one to go and help the less privileged. From hell, the rich man asks Abraham to send Lazarus to his parent’s home, to go and warn his five brothers, so that they can be preserved from the same fate of torment. Abraham responds that they have Moses and the Prophets whom they should listen to. But the rich man insists that someone should go to talk to them. If they see a great miracle they will mend their ways, they will repent.
For conversion to take place, it is necessary to listen to the word of God. To say no to our selfishness and to take care of others, especially those who are most in need.
Thus on judgment day we would be calm, without fear. Then the Lord Jesus who will manifest Himself on that day, will call us with the words of another parable “Come, you blessed of my Father, receive the Reign that has been prepared for you from the foundation of the world”.
Micah 6: 6 - 8
Ephesians 3: 14 - 19
Lk. 16: 19 - 31