These three topics really fit into the story of Lazarus that we hear in this week’s Gospel. The story of the rich man whose neglect of the poor is suppose to motivate us to generosity and love for those less fortunate than ourselves. Most of us can probably be more generous if we think about it, yes…or yes? So, let us take a lesson from Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States. Most of us know that he is one of the four Presidents carved in granite on Mt. Rushmore. But, are you aware that when he received the Nobel Peace prize in 1906 there was a rush of protests by many in the international community? As tensions built in Europe among the leading Presidents, Prime Ministers and Kings…“Teddy” brought the USA into the international spot light as a boisterous military man who represented a new way of doing government, the American way. In his Nobel speech he said: “No nation deserves to exist if it loses virtues.” A critic declared: “He was a disseminator of a doctrine that says there are dangers to the moral fabric of a nation from the cankers of a long peace.” It is so important that we see the error of this critic. The critic thinks that since peace is the primary objective of government, a nation should not risk losing its peace by debating moral issues of domestic or international concern. Roosevelt was not saying that long standing peace was the problem. He was saying that apathy and disinterest in moral issues that can accompany a comfortable life style can develop into oppression and enslavement of others. “Peace must be the bi-product of righteousness” he declared. Can you see a lesson in this for us today? To achieve and maintain peace one must be constantly willing to fight against evil within us and where it is found around us. Something similar should be said about fighting poverty. To help others achieve wealth it is necessary to help them lead productive and money saving lives. And, with an authentic understanding of Christian social justice, only those with money can best help those without it.
Now enter, John Denver. What does the Rocky Mountain High guy have to do with Lazarus and generosity? Yep, being from Denver, he was a “tree hugger” of the 70’s. A constant theme of his music is the love and respect of unspoiled nature. I recall vividly, clinging to a sense of a natural high on life…as so many of my friends sung the praises of artificial highs with drugs, alcohol and short term pleasures. But, removing the personal life and philosophy, I have to admit his music (with its lilt and movement) allowed me to believe that the simple joys of life are better than so many artificially induced “highs”. I never understood the need to go out and “get high” or “get drunk”. My physical constitution would just make me miserable and sick. Rather joy in life must be a bi-product of living a good and productive life. Just think how much more money we could spend on helping the poor if we didn’t spend so much on “artificial highs”. How I wish John Denver was still with us writing songs. I think him being older…he would probably have matured in his philosophy and outlook on life. But alas, his love of nature took a “new age” and “pantheistic” turn and his hunt for greater natural highs led to his death. If only he would have discovered the greatness of St. Francis of Assisi.
St. Francis loved nature (another “tree hugger’) and he blessed many pets. But his Catholic faith gave him a deeper appreciation of “brother sun and sister moon”. His faith clued him in on the fact that all this beauty is made by a God who is beauty itself. We must abandon our hunt to possess and own for ourselves as much natural beauty as possible. We must seek to love the ONE who made it all in the first place, “nature’s God” as our founding fathers declared. It is this spirit and this spirit alone that enables us to give and be generous. But alas, too many hearts have been spoiled by the pro-choice, pro-contraceptive culture so God’s hand behind nature’s beauty is all but lost.