THE SHEEP THAT BELONG TO ME LISTEN TO MY VOICE, SAYS THE LORD
(SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2019
THE 26th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR C)
Today’s first reading from the prophet Amos warns us not to be too satisfied with ourselves about our place in the world – especially if we forget to notice other people around us. He describes people living in luxury, eating and drinking the best of everything, thinking only of themselves. Amos concludes, “They shall be the first to go into exile.”
Every time that Jesus has something important to communicate, He creates a story and tells a parable. In this way, through reflection on an invisible reality, He leads those who listen to Him to discover the invisible call of God, who is present in life. A parable is meant to make us think and reflect. For this reason, it is important to pay attention to even the smallest details. In the parable in today’s Gospel there are three persons: the poor Lazarus, the rich man without a name, and Father Abraham. In the parable, Abraham represents the thought of God. The rich man without a name represents the dominating ideology of that time. Lazarus represents the silent cry of the poor in the time of Jesus and in all times.
The situation of the rich man and the poor man are the two extremes of our society today. On the one side, aggressive richness; on the other, the poor man without resources, without rights, covered with wounds, without anybody to accept him, to receive him, except the dogs which came to lick his wounds.
What separates both of them is the closed door of the rich man’s house. For the rich man, there is no acceptance nor pity concerning the poor man at his door. But the poor man has a name; the rich man does not. That is, the poor man has his name written in the book of life, not the rich one. The poor man’s name is Lazarus. It means God helps. And through the poor man, God helps the rich man who could have a name in the book of life. But the rich man does not allow himself to be helped by the poor man, because he keeps his door closed. The beginning of this parable is a faithful mirror of what was happening during the time of Jesus and the time of Luke. It is a mirror of everything that is happening today in the world!
In this parable, Jesus tells of a nameless Rich Man who lived a life of excess. He didn’t just eat well, he “dined sumptuously each day.” Yet literally at his doorstep was Lazarus, a starving man who longed for the scraps that fell from the Rich Man’s table. But as the Rich Man walked past him every day coming and going to his house, it never occurred to him to help the fellow human sprawled in front of him.
When the Rich Man died and was sent to the netherworld, he suddenly noticed Lazarus being cherished in heaven. Even from his misery in flames, the Rich Man saw Lazarus only as a servant to bring him water. His request for water was declined as Abraham told him “between us and you [is} a great chasm.”
Perhaps that chasm was a creation of the Rich Man, who in his life saw an insurmountable breach between himself and the poor. He didn’t recognize Lazarus as being worthy of his attention or generosity.
There is no doubt that our world is too divided and often we isolate ourselves into Us and Them. We have to work hard as Christians to eliminate the divisions between us. We are challenged to see Jesus in each other and to recognize the sacred humanity that we share with every other person.
The key to understanding the sense of the Bible is the poor Lazarus, sitting before the door! God presents Himself in the person of the poor, sitting at our door, to help us cross the enormous abyss which the rich have created.
Lazarus is also Jesus, the poor and servant Messiah, who was not accepted, but whose death changed all things radically. And everything changes in the light of the death of the poor. The place of torment, of torture, is the situation of the person without God. Even if the rich man thinks that he has religion and faith, in fact, he is not with God, because he does not open the door to the poor, as Zacchaeus did (Lk 19:1-10).
Today’s readings invite us to look at the chasms we create in our own lives, the false boundaries between Us and Them.
Where do we fail to reach out to those who need us because of our own protectiveness of our time, my money or simply our own fears? Are there people in our own lives or maybe beyond our daily lives that we are being asked to tend to, to feed or to forgive?
We are summoned to close the artificial gap between Us and Them, between our own comfortable lives, and those who need us – the ones we don’t always see in pain on our own doorstep.
Let Us Pray: Lord Jesus, give me grace to always be ready to use the gift you gave to me to help the poor and needy so that in my time of need I will find help from you.