The parable of the rich man and Lazarus helps us place into perspective the fighting role of the Church Militant. Lazarus represents not only the impoverished, but all who are dispossessed, vulnerable, and suffering. We are our brothers’ keepers.
The “High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle” (HMMWV) – or Humvee -- is a military vehicle. The Humvee is a warrior vehicle, designed to enter into the field of battle. But the shiny suburban Humvees we occasionally see on the street are, in fact, just expensive self-centered status symbols. On the streets, the vehicle has lost its purpose as a fighting machine.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with personal wealth, provided one realizes the moral obligation to share the wealth, particularly with those who cannot help themselves. The rich man was self-centered and overlooked the ultimate meaning of his wealth. He did not have a fighting spirit. The rich man is a Gospel example of a self-centered Suburban Humvee.
So it is with a good deal of contemporary self-help programs. Exercise, health food, and techniques of relaxation have their place. To an extent, there is nothing wrong with any of this. But we often fail to ask the question, “Why should we be healthy and relaxed beyond our self-interests and comforts?”
Self-satisfied, we become a Suburban Humvee, self-centered and selfish, just like the rich man in the Gospel. “…I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For they have no pangs; their bodies are sound and sleek.” (Psalm 73:3-4)
Even a practicing Catholic can become a Suburban Humvee. We know the faith. We experience the peace of soul that comes with a good Confession and the consolation that comes with weekly Mass attendance.
But as a psychological and spiritual matter, we may find ourselves with a resolve to avoid evil and addictions to sinful patterns that disrupt successful living, but without a resolve to enter into the cultural battle. It easy to lose a healthy Christian fighting spirit and become complacent in our private virtue. But complacency is not virtuous.
There is an instructive map in an old Catholic catechism from the 1950s. It illustrates the population density of Catholics throughout the nation, with the highest concentration in New York, Boston, Baltimore, Chicago, Milwaukee, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. These concentrations represented immigrant city-dwelling Catholics who worked up through the ranks of a Protestant culture that was hostile to them.
They were the Church Militant. They were hard-working, family-oriented, and virtuous. With the election of JFK, Catholics in the public square became respectable. But in time, large numbers of Catholics became complacent and forgot the religious roots of their virtue.
Now those areas with a high density of Catholics have become indistinguishable from the secular culture. Catholics concentrated in those areas – and their descendants -- have become Suburban Humvee Catholics, cashing in on good character disassociated from the Catholic faith.
Like the windswept house in the Gospel, the demons tricked us into using our virtue for exclusively self-interested purposes. We became successful in the workplace and politics. We paid our taxes so that government agencies might take care of the poor and the destitute. Meanwhile, pro-abortion politicians feasted on the votes of Suburban Humvee Catholics.
Recently, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.), who professes to be a “devout Catholic,” delivered an address at the 50th-anniversary dinner of NARAL Pro-Choice America. She said that the abortion bans sought by Republicans around the country “ignore basic morality” and violate the Constitution.
Shocking, but not unexpected. Our elected officials have become like pigs wallowing in moral filth, and many Catholics continue to enable them with their votes and indifference.
Those of us who claim to be orthodox practicing Catholics might also become Suburban Humvee Catholics. We insist we practice our faith, but we treat our faith as a very private matter. In national elections, if we vote, we vote pro-life. We are aware of the evil of the public school system, and we protect our kids with private education. We attend Mass and socialize with orthodox Catholics.
We take little interest in the public school system because we are living in our orthodox cocoon. We sometimes happily call it the “Benedict Option.” But it’s a conservative Catholic version of a Catholic Suburban Humvee.
The bad guys are far more zealous than we in targeting our public schools and public offices. Our public schools have become sewers of immorality because of our neglect. We need not look further than Fairfax County. Despite the substantial Catholic population, advocates of perversion have overrun the School Board. We elected them or at least didn’t oppose them.
Who cares? Well, most of us don’t. Here’s my proof: Do you know the names of the good candidates who are running for office in our local and state elections come November? We have become Suburban Humvee Catholics -- and I also stand accused along with you.
The purpose of a Humvee is to enter into battle. A warrior Humvee should be dusty and dented from the hard work and the sting of battle. Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Mt. 10:34) Jesus is no Suburban Humvee.
The Catholic faith is a warrior faith. All of us – people, priests, bishops, and popes -- should be carrying the scars of battle. We will be rebuked and scorned by the press, our superiors, and members of our family, even the people we serve -- by protecting the poor, the dispossessed, the unborn, and the children in our public schools. They are our neighbors with whom we will spend eternity. Or not.
The parable of Lazarus and the rich man makes it clear there is an eternal price to pay for our neglect.