Amos 6:1 4-7 Psalm 146 1 Timothy 6: 11-16 Luke 16: 19-31
We will all face a final accounting when life comes to an end, and the eternal questions are clear: “What did we do with the gift that was given to us?” and “How do we measure the significance of a person’s life?“ By the common standards of this world, the rich man would have been counted as having lived quite a significant life because wealth was seen as God’s favor. Lazarus, in contrast, was seen as totally insignificant, yet he is, in fact, the only character in a parable told by Jesus whoever received a name. The eyes of God never lost sight of Lazarus in his suffering. Death is the great equalizer, for whether king or pauper, we all face its certainty and it is to its consequence that Jesus chose this parable to challenge us, to shake our complacency and to highlight our thought processes about the persons in this world whose humanity we fail to recognize. One reality is certain; judgment of our lives will lay our choices squarely at the hands of the God Who made us and loves us, and yet, the kindness and the cruelty that hold the confines of our personal story will be the basis of the judgment. It is hoped that we have let go of everything within us that stands in the way of love, the principal arbitrator of our destiny. In the end, it will be the daily choices where we ascribed kindness, compassion, and justice to the face of the untold brutality and degradation endured by others, that will define our spiritual destiny. None of us has fully arrived at that place where there is only love within us. It is our constant challenge and the source of our redemption.
Our two Gospel figures lived near each other; one in a mansion and the other on a dusty pathway, each visible to the other, yet worlds apart. The first remains nameless, being recognized only as a “rich man,” who dressed in fine purple linen, living in luxury, with a home open only to himself. The man at the other end of the spectrum is at the bottom of every culture, every society, every birthplace. Both in life and death, these two proclaim a stark and desperate contrast, and it matters! Jesus asks that we be “a refuge for the poor, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat.” This was not in the rich man’s heart. He never noticed the beggar at his gate. He had not been a shelter for him in those cold and sleet filled nights when the rain pelted and battered, and he shivered in the cold. He had not noticed when the Middle East was baking in the place where he rested in the shade to catch the soft cool breeze, while Lazarus suffered from the heat of the blazing sun. Lazarus was non-existent; he was just a blight on the landscape and not worthy of recognition.
The rich man‘s relationship to Lazarus reflects his relationship with God. He had none! Not even in Hades did he recognize his indifference to the plight of this man’s humanity. He did not ask forgiveness but rather continued the indifference by demanding that Lazarus, the beggar, be sent to assure that his family would be saved. There is a great gulf fixed and only the voice of Jesus as He whispers, “ Do not be afraid.”
This story is directed toward us. Is it possible for us to live through our days and not know that there are persons all around us whom this world does not recognize; insignificant numbers, too numerous to count, the no-names that are known only to God? Is it possible we could live in a country where thousands of children are abandoned and abused, trafficked and unsheltered and not be aware of their plight? Are there no-name situations in our experience? God is saying, “I want you to meet that person at the gate; I want you to realize they do indeed have a name and that name is “CHOSEN.” Is it possible we live in such a selfish world, that we ignore the call of Christ to lift our eyes and see the nameless starving at our gates and refuse to replace indifference with compassion? The rich man was nameless because of his indifference; Jesus transferred the “Chosen” title “Lazarus” to all those known intimately by the Father. We should pray that God will somehow help us to recognize Lazarus as he patiently waits at our door; waiting for us to serve and to share our abundance from God’s bounty, to be PRESENT in Christ‘s name. It is not easy to care for a Lazarus wherever he may be found, and she can be found in every face that lifts its frightened gaze to us – even those with whom we live, and there are many there whose name is Lazarus, for there are all kinds of deprivation, loneliness, and loss. It‘s hard to see older people in rest homes. It‘s hard to go to prisons. It‘s hard to care for the alien and the immigrant and the refugee. It‘s hard to care for an abused child; it is hard to be a friendly respite for the forgotten and the unnamed among us. It only takes a willing hand, and an open heart and we will be all the better for the offer. The rich man had a banquet in his house, but he never had one in his heart; the party in a heart such as his waits in vain for those who will truly serve and care with the care of Christ. Teach us, Lord, to have others matter with significance! Teach us to be sensitive to those less fortunate, to the Lazarus that God chooses to send for our sanctification.
Sister Anne Daniel Young, OP