I remember back when I played basketball in high school, my coach would constantly be yelling at us, “DON’T GET COMPLACENT!”
Yet from time to time, that’s exactly what we did.
At times we’d be satisfied with how we were playing. We’d feel content. We’d think we had it all figured out, and then we’d get lazy. We’d start to forget to do the little things – staying in our defensive stance, making sloppy, nonchalant passes, not hustling down the court.
We’d forget the fundamentals. And then that’s when our coach would lay down the hammer – “You’ve gotten lazy! You’ve gotten COMPLACENT! So what if we’ve won a few games, or scored a lot of points, that just means that our opponents will be gunning for us even harder! “
That’s when another favorite quote would come out – “Remember what got you here!”
And then he’d break us down a bit, and get us back to the fundamentals. This is so common in sports, from grade school, up through college and even in the pros.
It’s so common in life.
The first reading today is like a fiery half-time speech, where a team is losing to an inferior opponent and simply got blasted in the first half. Except here it is the Israelites, and they’ve gotten lazy in their faith. God tells them, You’ve gotten complacent. You’ve forgot what got you here and you’ve gotten comfortable with how things are going. You think you have it all figured out, and then you make your own rules. And the thing is? I DON’T THINK YOU EVEN CARE!
Wow, I know I’ve heard that speech before! God is warning Israel about becoming lazy in their faith, and not looking out for each other. He’s warning them about how ill-advised it is to simply live by their own rules, and enjoy the fruits of life without remembering the hard work and God-given grace with which they were attained.
Fast-forward to the second reading today from St. Paul. Here we go again. It’s as if Paul is giving Timothy a pep talk. It’s perhaps a different scenario though. Timothy is seemingly doing well. Sure, he’s had some challenges up to this point in evangelizing, but overall he is spreading the Gospel and converting hearts.
But Paul, like a good coach doesn’t let him ease up. He tells Timothy to stay strong, and to pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness.
And then Paul says, Compete well for the faith. Even though things were going well, this was not time to get comfortable, to get complacent. Paul tells Timothy he must work even harder moving forward in his mission.
Let’s move forward to the Gospel reading today, the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man isn’t necessarily mean towards Lazarus. He simply neglects him. He acts as if Lazarus does not exist. The rich man is comfortable in his life. He is enjoying the fruits and the pleasures he has, while totally neglecting the fact that poor Lazarus has nothing, and would cherish even the scraps.
I don’t know the rich man’s story. I don’t know how he came to be wealthy, whether it was inherited or through his own hard work. But he was to the point where he got complacent, where he got used to the material pleasures in his life, and forgot where he came from. He forgot what got him there. He forgot the fundamentals of life, the fundamentals of his faith – to love God, and to love his neighbor. He neglected his neighbor, he failed to respect him because he saw him as inferior, a lesser person. He ignored him.
This is society in the world today. We are too complacent. We are complacent in our homes, in our communities, in our governments, and in our faith. Many times, we are complacent as Catholics. It says in the first reading today, that Israel was Improvising to the music of the harp, like David, they devise their own accompaniment.
Often, we are improvising and adding our own accompaniment to the beautiful, perfect music of our Catholic faith. We want to take it and make it our own, one that is comfortable for us. And maybe that works for a while. Things seem to be going well. We think we have it figured out, that we can’t be stopped. We start thinking about ourselves, and less about others, and we thrive on the things in life.
We turn a blind eye to those less pleasant things in our life. We ignore them. We neglect them. We forget the fundamentals of life, and we forget what got us here.
We get complacent. We get satisfied. We get proud. And then we get sloppy.
And so from time to time, God sits us down mid-game and gives us a break from the world. Sometimes we don’t want to stop, but he pulls us in and sits us down. Sometimes he gives us a pep-talk. Other times, it’s a fiery speech to get our attention.
In those times, He breaks us down and we get back to the fundamentals. That’s the great thing about being Catholic. We’ve got the Sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist to help us do that. We’ve got the daily readings, the Rosary, the writings of the Saints and so on to help us get back on track, and help us remember what got us here. We’ve got God’s Word.
But in the end – it is our choice. We can choose to live by our own rules, or we can choose to live by the time-tested, universal principles of life. Those moral basics handed down over the generations. Those fundamentals.
When we’re tempted to ease up, get comfortable with our situation, and get lazy, that’s when we need to humble ourselves, get back to the basics, and remember What got us here.
AM 6:1A, 4-7; PS 146; 1 TM 6:11-16; LK 16:19-31