THE GIFT OF A LIFE
HOMILY – 26th SUNDAY [C] 2016 [Luke 16:19-31]
On Friday I was at our national seminary in Auckland for the ordination of four young men as deacons. One of them, Cirilo Barlis, was on pastoral placement with us last year. He is due to be ordained priest next year for service here.
As a deacon, Cirilo is now numbered among the clergy. He has taken the promise of celibacy and pledged obedience to his bishop, Cardinal John. He has committed his life to our service – the service of God’s people. As deacon he is also on the payroll and will receive the same monthly allowance that I and Cardinal John receive. There is no salary scale in the priesthood!
All this might appear rather daunting. Not much incentive there for a person to give their life. From a worldly point of view the priesthood is probably the most unattractive option for anyone expecting the benefits usually associated with a professional career. More than that, the priesthood is a life-long choice; not something you take on for a few years then move to another line of work.
Yet Cirilo, like many before him, including myself, has sensed a purpose where others see waste; he has caught sight of a treasure others have overlooked, and stepped into a way of life he believes is worth pursuing. Only the extremely foolish or demented throw the gift of life away; when someone chooses to give their life – to make their life available to help the lives of others – it is because they have opened their gift, recognised its value and felt the urge to share it.
My priesthood has matured through my relationships with people like you. My life is fulfilled by the experiences I have being part of your lives. I’m not missing out. Not at all! Your affection no less than your needs gives me life.
Our social justice prophet, Amos, points to the lengths some people go to find a life that fully satisfies. Lying on ivory beds and sprawling on their divans…and drinking wine by the bowlful – is his image of luxuriant living. But it’s never enough, and made worse when people of wealth have no care for the ruin around them.
Our modern day extravagance was illustrated this week with news of the opening of a billion dollar hotel in China with a room-rate of $100,000 per night. All this in a world of many Lazarus folk: refugees, homeless, powerless…
Each of the four deacons was presented with a book of the gospels; with their hands on this book they committed themselves to believe what they read; to teach what they believe; to practice what they teach. It is the gospel – the story of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus – that is now their life. it is to be what they treasure above all else. It is what they will take into their priesthood, shaping their lives and lovingly shared with those they serve.
The rich man was closed off from the poverty of Lazarus, unable to share anything of himself because he was empty of any ability to give what was needed: nourishment for the spirit that comes with compassion, understanding, an awareness of community and a merciful heart.
As Chile and Malta celebrate their national days this weekend, we can each give thanks for our homeland and pray for its stability and courage to face issues of justice and inequality. Pray, too, for the deacons soon to become priests, that they might never lose the vision that first captured their love; and pray for each other, that the gospel challenge might keep our personal gates open wide for love and service to be unhindered and forever generous.