Twenty-sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time
On a freezing cold January day with harsh winds and driving snow, there stood a man shivering as he waited for a bus on the other side of the highway. His body braced against the wind, while his hands cupped his mouth in an effort to ease the cold. I thought about turning around, but I was running late for a hot latte with a friend… and surely someone else would help him. I was complacent and I carried on.
“Woe to the complacent,” warns the prophet, Amos. Woe to those who are satisfied with their own lives while others struggle. Woe to those who speed past, turn away, step over, or ignore because they’re too busy. Woe to those who won’t spare a dime, a dollar, or a hand up because they’re too comfortable. Woe to those who can’t be bothered.
In his September 13, 2016 homily, Pope Francis cautions against complacency, often rooted in indifference, comfort, or self-preservation. “We are accustomed to this indifference, when we see the disasters of this world or small things: ‘What a shame, poor people, look how they are suffering,’ and then we carry on.”
We carry on. We carry on while one more refugee drowns, one more man loses his job, and one more baby is aborted. We yawn as the great chasm between the haves and have-nots widens, deepens. We shed a tear, and then switch channels.
In this Sunday’s Gospel, the rich man was complacent, content with his sumptuous living, while indifferent to the suffering of Lazarus, lying at his door. Woe to the complacent, for complacency kills the bodies of suffering brothers and sisters. Woe to the complacent, for complacency kills the souls of those whose hearts grow cold while warming their own hands.
As parents and grandparents, we name grace—God’s living presence—when we teach our children to not carry on as usual when another in their presence is struggling/suffering: it’s not okay to keep playing and ignore your sibling who is hurt; it’s not okay to open your milk carton while a classmate sits alone in the school cafeteria, day after day; it’s not okay to purchase another—you name it—when a neighbor lacks basic necessities. We name grace when we model for our children eternal values: faith, love, patience, gentleness, kindness, inclusivity, compassion, and sacrificial generosity.
As I cupped my hot mocha latte, the Holy Spirit convicted me: “Woe to the complacent! How dare you sit contently while your brother is freezing?” Since then, whenever the temperatures drop and sharp winds blow, I’m on high alert for anyone shivering—even if it means turning around, being late, or interrupting my plans—for my eternal life depends on it. In Dante’s Inferno, the description of the deepest circle of Hell is a place where the worst sinners are “covered wholly by ice,” suffering “separation from the source of all light and life and warmth.” Woe to the complacent, for Hell is reserved for those of icy indifference and cold-hearted self-interest.
In the Gospel, it’s too late for the rich man, but God willing, we may be gifted with another day to break our own complacency and warm those suffering at our door. Now, that’s good news!
Who is suffering in your home, school, or workplace?
How can you break a sense of complacency in your life?
Naming Grace in the Domestic Church reflects on the Sunday readings through the lens of a parent/grandparent, aiding parents in their vital task as “first preachers” of the Good News in the home.
Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
On a late summer evening, we received a phone call from our babysitter. Panicked, she blurted out, “Mrs. Pedersen, I’m so sorry to be calling, but I can’t find Billy. I’ve looked everywhere, inside and outside, and I can’t find him.” “We’ll be right home.” Leaving the dinner abruptly, we raced home to find neighbors gathered outside. They had searched their houses, yards, and garages—and no Billy. They continued to search while we calmed the sitter and joined the hunt for our beloved son. My husband, Mike, searched the garage and surrounding area while I took a quick sweep of the house. No Billy. My heart sank. Where is he? Praying, I decided to take one more careful sweep of the house, starting with his room. And there, underneath his bed, was Billy, sound asleep. Filled with relief, my heart rejoiced for our son, who had been lost, was now found!
This Sunday’s Gospel reflects on Jesus’ primary ministry of seeking and saving the lost: a little lost sheep, a coin misplaced, and two sons far from the Father’s heart. Every parent experiences the fear of losing a child: a toddler wandering from home; a young child disappearing in autism; a child abducted off the street; an adult child drowning in mental illness, drawn by addiction, devoured by darkness, or shattered by abuse. Jesus came to seek the lost, the lonely, and those caught up in sin. God never, ever, stops searching for our children—His children—no matter the cost.
National Public Radio reported on a mother from South America, whose young adult daughter was kidnapped by human traffickers years ago. Since then, she has spent her life scouring the roughest neighborhoods for her beloved child. When asked if she was frightened facing such danger, she responded, “I have lost my daughter. I have nothing else to lose. I will never stop searching for her.”
Virginia Pillars, author of, Broken Brain, Fortified Faith, Lessons of Hope through a Child’s Mental Illness, writes of the intense search for her daughter, lost in schizophrenia. Pillars prayerfully walked through fire in securing appropriate treatment, leading to her daughter’s recovery—her beloved daughter was found.
As parents/grandparents, we have been considered trustworthy of sharing in the ministry of seeking the lost—especially our children. We name grace—God’s presence—in the domestic church by letting our children know we will never, ever, stop searching for them through prayer and action—no matter how lost or how long. We name grace as we speak of God’s desire for each little lamb, every lost coin—each human person—to be found and brought into wholeness.
The introductory story of Billy occurred after 1989, when eleven-year-old Jacob Wetterling was kidnapped while riding his bike near his home in Minnesosta. His abduction made national headlines, shooting fear into parents’ hearts and placing all parents on high alert, including us. Just this past week, Jacob’s remains were found. Reported in the Star Tribune, “Jacob’s abduction sparked an extensive search that never truly ended.” For nearly three decades, Jacob’s parents searched, and with the recent news, Jacob’s mother stated simply, “Our hearts are broken.” We trust Jesus found Jacob and welcomed him home back in 1989. Today, we entrust our children to Jesus, for He will never stop searching for the lost, and they shall be found! Now, that’s good news!
Who is lost in your family or neighborhood?
How will you reach out to the lost?
The blog on this page presents reflections on the Sunday readings through the lens of a parent/grandparent, aiding leaders of the domestic church in their vital task as “first heralds” or “first preachers” of the Good News in the home.