Kids, I have a question for you. Have you ever been driving somewhere with your parents, maybe driving to a vacation spot or to visit someone and they got lost? Maybe they realized too late that they took a wrong turn? It’s OK, you can tell me!
Well that happened to me one time. I was driving up to Burlington, Vermont with someone I work with, and while I was driving, I took a wrong turn and kept driving for an hour before I realized what had happened. I finally realized what I had done when I saw a sign that didn’t say, “Welcome to Burlington, Vermont.” Instead, it said “Welcome to Canada!” I realized too late that I was way off track, and I was going to be very late. So, I drove into Canada, turned right around and pulled up to talk to the nice man from the Canadian border patrol, and when he asked me how long I had been in Canada, I said, “About 30 seconds.”
I realized that I was off track. And I think things like this happen to all of us in different ways. Maybe we realize too late that we were supposed to do something for someone, and we forgot. Or we hurt someone’s feelings without knowing it, and we realize too late that we hurt them.
That’s what Jesus is warning us about today, to not realize too late. Not to realize too late how we live our lives, how we treat people and how what we do may not be exactly what he wants. Jesus doesn’t want that to happen to us and that’s why he told the story of the rich man and Lazarus.
The rich man in the story lived his life not caring for others, instead he wore fancy clothes and had big feasts all the time. He didn’t listen to God’s directions, he just wanted to keep doing what he was doing. Lazarus, on the other hand, was a good man but also very poor and he lived outside the rich man’s house. The rich man never helped Lazarus and when they both died, Lazarus went straight to heaven.
God gave the rich man and all of us directions for how to get to heaven. In the second reading today, we heard Saint Paul tell us to pursue, “faith, love, patience and gentleness” because that is God’s direction for us. If the rich man had followed these easy directions, what might he have done for Lazarus? Maybe he could have invited him in to eat or given him some of his clothes, that would have been good. But he didn’t and realized too late that he should have.
So, what about us? When we think about faith, love, patience and gentleness, what should we try to do more of? I bet we could put together a list pretty easily – we could donate clothes, help the homeless with food, volunteer at a shelter. All those are good things, but I think Jesus might also be asking something of us that goes deeper. He is asking us to change a little bit of who we are because that change can make a big impact.
Let’s think about Saint Paul’s, and God’s, directions for us.
First, he mentions Faith: He is asking us to make Jesus a bigger part of our lives. We know we should, and we know that is what he wants, so why don’t we just do it?
The second is Love: It is easy to love our family and friends, but maybe Jesus is asking us to show more love to those people we find difficult, annoying or hurtful. Maybe by taking the first step with them and showing them some of our love, we can change things.
And finally, Patience and Gentleness: Find ways to be that person who, when people talk about you, they say, “They are always nice” or “I like being around them because they are always calm, caring and giving.”
Be that person.
Follow God’s prescription for how to change a little bit of who we are.
Realize that, like Lazarus, where we really want to be is in the arms of God in heaven.