This homily was given at Mater Dolorosa Parish, South San Francisco, CA on the Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, September 25, 2022. The audio is available here.
One day, in San Francisco, a young man got on a bus to the Golden Gate Bridge.
His name was Kevin, and he was in tears.
That day, he planned to take his own life.
But he looked into the faces of the different strangers he encountered along the way, hoping someone, anyone, would ask him what was wrong.
Every day, we face a hundred choices, just like the passengers on that bus.
A word from someone in passing makes me think they might be in pain, but trying to hide it: Do I ask them how they’re really doing, or keep silent?
There’s a man at the gate of the church parking lot with a sign, begging for food: Do I dare to stop and go to him, or avert my eyes and drive on?
Resentment and anger have simmered for weeks between me and a loved one: will I be the first to breach the silence, not with insults and accusations, but with vulnerability, forgiveness, and love?
Or will I wait in stubbornness and pride for the other one to come to me?
The opposite of love is not hatred…
Indifference binds us up, keeping us silent when we should speak.
To speak up, to reach out, to go to the person in need feels like a risk.
The conversation might be uncomfortable.
I don’t know what it might demand of me.
And after all, I can’t fix all their problems.
Better not to ask, better not to know, better not to get involved…
As we choose indifference, our hearts harden and become numb.
What astonishing indifference kept the rich man from offering even his scraps to poor Lazarus, lying sick and senseless at his very door!
How many years of indifference it must have taken to anesthetize him to such a degree that he could step over Lazarus’s prone and wounded body every night and go in to feast!
And that very same indifference, Abraham suggests, would keep the rich man’s brothers from repenting, even if they saw a miracle in their midst.
When he sees us wounded and suffering, Jesus is not afraid or indifferent.
He comes down from Heaven to heal us, His mercy attracted by our misery.
Love impels Jesus to come to our assistance, that love that drove Him all the way to the Cross and raised Him up again from the depths of death!
It is His love alone that heals, that saves … saving us even from our own indifference, shaking us out of the numbness of our hearts with the shock of being loved that much, to the last breath, the last drop of blood!
As we are healed by His extravagant love, Jesus asks us to go and do likewise, taking a risk to care for others as He cares for us: lavishly, recklessly, without counting the cost.
Love waits for us in those little moments when we can choose to take a risk … love which has the power to change lives and echoes in eternity.
Jesus, the One who ministers to us with love and tender mercy, waits for us in the distressing disguise of the poor, the suffering, the hungry, the heavy-hearted, the world-weary, the heartbroken and despairing.
He allows us to minister to Him, to repay His love with love of our own.
For he promises, “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”
Dear friends, we cannot overcome the habitual indifference of our hearts on our own.
We need a Savior.
We must receive the love of Jesus before we can share it with those out there who need it most.
As St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta told one young priest, “Without God, we are too poor to be able to help the poor!”
On the bus that day, no one asked Kevin how he was doing.
He jumped … but miraculously, he survived the fall.
In the hospital, he was visited by a Franciscan friar, who suggested he share his story with others who might be struggling.
Now, Kevin travels the country as a mental health advocate, reminding people that a smile, a question, a little scrap of kindness can save a life.
And Kevin, a Catholic, prays daily, “Jesus, Jesus, come to me.”
Today, at this Holy Mass, ask Jesus to come and pour out that love into our hearts which has the power to shatter strongholds, to break the bonds of fear and indifference, and set us free to love others as He loves us.
We can always find reasons not to speak up, not to reach out, not to go to the person in need.
But as we take the risk to love as we have been loved, we encounter love.
We find that our hearts come alive, and our lives, and theirs, are changed.
We may not see the impact, but where love is, healing is constantly occurring.
And on the last day, we will hear the voice of our King say, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”