Bishop Sipuka at IMBISA: “There will always be a Lazarus at our gate, in need”

The 13th IMBISA Plenary Session in Windhoek Namibia started on the 22nd of September and will end 27th September. Bishop Sithembele Sipuka, the President of the SACBC, gave a homily at the Mass celebrated on Sunday, 25th September.

Giving caution to both young and old Bishop Sipuka said no one is safe from death despite an invocation from litany of saints making sense in saying “From sudden and unexpected death, deliver us, O Lord”. The Bishop emphasized the importance of remembering that after death the Church left behind still has to continue to survive and therefore people must not forget the Church when they draw up their last wills and testimony, which they should all have. “Let us not leave everything to family members but to the Church as well to continue its work after we are gone.”

“There will be some accountability about our life on this other side. That accountability will not only be about the wrongs we have done but also about the good we failed to do,” said Bishop Sipuka. In continuing he said even though in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus there is no suggestion that the rich man got his wealth by robbing anybody his sin is that he did nothing about the plight of Lazarus, stressing that the rich man knew about Lazarus but chose to do nothing. “We sin both by commission and omission”, noted Bishop Sipuka.

In contextualizing the message from the readings Bishop Sipuka said people may not be rich in terms of having excessive material things, there is always something in which they are better than others, and in that thing in which they are richer there will always be a Lazarus at our gate in need of it.

This call to recognise and respond to our Lazarus, said Bishop Sipuka, can manifest in three ways,  “The first and most common one is to react personally to Lazarus at our door on a one-to-one basis.” “The second way of reacting to our Lazarus is through an organised response, which takes the form of a charity organisation.” “The third and final way is to ask why there is a poor Lazarus in the first place.”

Taking recourse to an example of Mother Theresa, the President of the SACBC said some people may be like Mother Theresa, whose personality disposition is not inclined to question the systems, to march or write statements or lobby or sit in or toy-toy against systems but to mobilise others to get involved in an organised charity response.  

Getting to the heart of the matter for the IMBISA Bishop Sipuka said, “This 13th IMBISA plenary meeting has identified its Lazarus as the youth, and it must do so at a personal, organised and systemic level.”

Then speaking about the young people he said during this plenary they have discovered that young people are not saints; they have many flaws.   They have an entitlement attitude that the world owes them, they think that because they are young, they know everything and we old ones are stupid, they are lazy and want quick results without hard work, they think in front of themselves and have no sense of the long term consequences of their action, they strive after pleasure and have no appreciation of a life of sacrifice, they are abusive to their parents and grandparents causing them stress and high blood pressure. The only legacy of their parents that they carry is the name and not the good works and the noble causes for which their parents stood. They reap where they have not sown.

But, cautioned the bishop, we the old people “what right do we have to say these things when we do not know you? If, as Church, we do not have a personal touch with you, if we do not listen to you and understand what leads you to do these things, our saying these things is only condemnation, whereas if we know you, if we have time for you, our saying these things will be coming out of a concern to correct and save you and you will listen to us.”

Turning his focus to the celibates Bishop Sipuka said many young people today have broken families and backgrounds with no one to turn to and listen to them. “The providence of celibacy with no families of our own to take care of is that we priests and religious would be available for the young people in these trying times of today.”

“Perhaps when we make time for this personal response to our Lazarus of the young people, it will be easier for us to respond to them at the second and third levels of organisation and system,” said Bishop Sipuka who later said to the youth that while the adults have identified young people as their Lazarus and taken some responsibility for the state in which they are, young people of their side must also take responsibility for what you have become. 

“From now on, use your freedom to choose whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable and whatever is excellent or praiseworthy,” said the President of the SACBC, concluding by saying, “May it be that we shall have recognised our Lazarus by the time we die and responded accordingly.”

Read the full homily below.



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