This homily was delivered at the UMSL community at 8:30pm on 9/29/13. – Fr. Bill
Our family was unable to afford comic books growing up, so I was introduced to them only in college, where two classmates had extensive collections. Superman, the Fantastic Four, the X-men – really, all the comic book characters with the exception of Captain America and Conan the Barbarian – had super powers. And they would use these powers for good. (Except the bad guys, of course, who would use those powers for evil) Super powers were a good thing.
If you or I could have a super power, what would it be? Or what would you ask for? The ability to fly? Or like the Flash, to go incredibly quickly, so you could get all your papers and homework done in a blink. Or in a different vein, to heal a broken heart? To create world peace at the drop of a hat? As I mused on this, it dawned on me – I do have a super power. Yep. I’ve been holding out on you these years. I have a secret super power.
You see, I can make people invisible. I can make them invisible.
It’s a little funny, though, this power. Sometimes I control the effect. Other times, it just happens. It works initially only for me. I am the only one who can’t see them. They are right there. Others can see them. They can see themselves. But I can’t see them. But if I work hard, sometime I can get other people to make the same person invisible. Making people invisible is a scary secret power.
The rich man in today’s gospel had that power as well. He didn’t see Lazarus. Sure, he knew he was there. He would have had to step over him on his way in and out of the house. He allowed him to beg by his door – rather than have him run off by the police. He even knew his name – as we discover, when he asks Abraham to send Lazarus to dip his finger in water to comfort him. But he never SAW Lazarus. He had made him invisible – so he wouldn’t feel guilty. So he wouldn’t have to deal with a situation that would confront his eating comfortably, his dressing in wealth and finery.
The last time I used that power was Friday night. At the dedication of the garden, I was walking from one conversation to get some water. There, in my periphery, was a couple that I recognized from back in the day, but could not remember their names. Rather than admit my poor memory, I just made them invisible. And kept right on walking. It happens at UMSL when you are the second one to show up to a classroom, and it is that ‘odd’ student sitting there, and rather than taking the risk to be associated with them, you make them invisible and sit across the room. We know that sometimes in our own families/apartments, when our spouse or sibling or roommate has angered us by any one of a countless number of things -–and we grow tired from being healthy and confronting them with what we need and what we can tolerate and what we are willing to budge on – so we make the problem invisible and ignore them until it blows up in our face…
Sometimes we even make ourselves invisible- because we don’t trust that people will want to hear what we have to say – so we hold back – and our friends never get a glimpse into the things that we hold sacred in our hearts…
And those are just the easy times when we do that. Archbishop Carlson has made this weekend IMMIGRANT AWARENESS weekend. Which is another whole population that we tend to make invisible. It is enough that we profit from the cheap food that their backbreaking labor provides. But to see them, and to see them as our brothers and sisters – well, that would have consequences. It is easier to make the issues around immigration invisible. (See the website www.justiceforimmigrants.org for more information and action steps)
Super powers. I thought they were great when I was first introduced to comic books. Until I realized that I too have powers, and that I too, have used them to the detriment of the kingdom. I encourage you this week to examine the ‘powers that you exercise’ as you relate to people. Perhaps, like Superman, you can see beyond appearances to the heart of what people struggle with. Use that power this week as you listen to folks with all your strength. Perhaps, like me, you have made people invisible. Learn to see them this week by having lunch with them or a conversation…
But know that you have great power within you – the power to nurture life and love, the power to return love for hatred, to bring light in the places of darkness, to be hope in a world full of despair. It is the power that comes from the one who sees us all so clearly and loves us all into life- Jesus whom we receive at this table.