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HOW A JUSTIFIED CHRISTIAN SHOULD LIVE
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Thursday, Second Week of Lent, February 25, 2016
Jeremiah 17:5-10, Psalm 1, Luke 16:19-31


Scripture quotations are from the RSV unless otherwise noted.

 

"But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish'" (Luke 16:25).


This is the parable of the rich man, "who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day" (Luke 16:19), while a poor, sick man full of sores lay at his gate every day, longing "to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table" (Luke 16:21). When both died, their roles were reversed. The poor man was taken up to heaven, while the rich man found himself in hell.


This parable is a warning to the rich not to be like this rich man, feasting sumptuously every day and not using his wealth to help others. This is not the way rich Christians are to live. If they live this way and use their wealth only for themselves, living a life of pleasure, eating the finest food, sumptuously prepared, and are totally unconcerned about the rest of the world, they will find themselves in hell when they die.


What, then, should the rich do? How does God want a rich Christian to live? First of all, they should live a simple life, seeking all their delight in the Lord, not in the pleasures of adorned food, exquisitely prepared. Christians are to live for the Lord, not for themselves (2 Corinthians 5:15). They are to seek all their delight in the Lord, not in feasting and banqueting. Filling ourselves with unnecessary worldly pleasures desensitizes us so that we cannot experience the love of God in our heart. It weighs us down so that our spirit cannot rise to God (Luke 21:34).


Even though I may be rich and can easily afford a superbly prepared banquet every day - or even twice or three times a day - I should not do so. I should deny myself and eat only simple, plain, unadorned, basic, healthy food. This way all the love of my heart can be focused on God. Married people can do this together as a couple, focusing their life on the Lord and living and eating very simple, plain, healthy food, even though they could well afford daily sumptuous dining both at home and in fine restaurants.


We should rather be dead to the world, that is, to a worldly way of living and eating (Galatians 6:14). What then should we do with all our money? We should use it in the Lord's service, that is, beyond what we need to live a very simple, plain, healthy, unadorned life. The rich man in this parable should have stopped feasting, and then been concerned about using his wealth to help others. He could have begun with the sick beggar who lay at his gate, longing for something to eat.


Why did this rich man end up in hell? Abraham gives him the answer, "Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish" (Luke 16:25). Abraham says that he is in hell because he received his good things in his lifetime on earth. He has already had his good things. He has already had his delight in unnecessary worldly pleasures. Instead of focusing his love and enjoyment on the Lord, he has scattered and dissipated it with doctored-up dishes, dainties, and gastronomic delights. His heart has thereby become divided. Instead of seeking all his delight in the Lord, he has devoted himself to these worldly pleasures and has become worldly. His heart has become divided and weighed down. He has not reserved himself for the Lord.


So what should we do to avoid his error and sad end? We should take Jesus' warning seriously, the warning of this parable and of Jesus' words, "Take heed to yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a snare" (Luke 21:34). Fine dining weighs us down. It weighs down our heart and spirit so that we cannot experience the subtle love of God and the splendor of his righteousness shining in our heart.


We can successfully serve only one master, the Lord; not also daily banquets. We cannot serve both God and mammon (Matthew 6:24), both God and unnecessary worldly pleasures. A daily or twice daily banqueter cannot serve God, because he is trying to serve two masters. He is divided. He does not have an undivided heart in his love for God.


We must remember that Christ "died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised" (2 Corinthians 5:15). We are to live no longer for ourselves in the way that this rich man did. We are to live simply, practicing self-denial in order to focus all our love on the Lord. This is how a justified Christian is to live. His life is to be very different from the life of the world around him. Rather he is to die to the world and its worldly lifestyle. "Far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Galatians 6:14).


I must be crucified to the worldly life of daily banqueting and vain pleasure seeking in the things of here below. I should live the way of the cross, of being crucified to the world, and the world to me. Secular movies, filled with images and messages that we are to live like this rich man who went to hell, should be avoided.


Rather we are to practice self-denial. "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me" (Matthew 16:24 NKJV). This rich man did just the opposite of self-denial. He lived a life of self-indulgence. He did not hate his life in this world, but loved it. So he lost it (John 12:25). He did not lose his life in this world for Christ, but rather tried to save it by his daily banquets, and so he lost his life (Mark 8:35).


"He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life" (John 12:25). "For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it" (Mark 8:35).


To avoid this rich man's fate we must hate our life in this world by living simply, in evangelical poverty, and lose our life in this world for the sake of Christ. Only then will we find life truly, both here and hereafter, ending up in heaven rather than hell. We must take the narrow way of life of the few, and avoid the broad and easy way of the many, of the world, that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13-14).


We must not be worldly. "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If any one loves the world, love for the Father is not in him" (1 John 2:15). If we do not heed these teachings, we will hear the Lord say on the last day, "Woe to you that are rich, for you have received your consolation" (Luke 6:24). Better to live simply now and receive our consolation in God, both here and hereafter. Then we will hear the Lord say, "Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God" (Luke 6:20).


Indeed, if we live in delights, like this rich man, we will probably end up where he did, for "truly, I say to you, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God" (Matthew 19:23-24). It is one thing to be a rich man. It is quite another thing to live like a rich man in a life of self-indulgence.


Lent is a good time to examine our lifestyle and change our mind and orientation, to live as a justified, born-again Christian (John 3:3) should live. We should renounce a worldly lifestyle with its worldly ways of eating and living; and instead use our money in the Lord's service.

 

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