Sunday Readings: Amos 6.1, 4-7; 1 Timothy 6.11-16; Luke 16.19-31
“Remember how well you lived when you were alive and how miserable Lazarus was. Now he has found comfort but you have found torment. He cannot help you. Between you and us is a great abyss that no one can cross.” – Luke 16.25-26
The great abyss that yawns between the poor man and the rich man in the abode of the dead exists already in the distance between them when they are alive. The rich man never notices the poor man Lazarus begging at his gate, never responds to his need. The rich man doesn’t know Lazarus exists, nor does the rich man have any idea that his riches are not well-deserved blessings from God. He has no other ethic than spending his money on himself. He has no connection with the poor man at this gate.
The two characters represent extremes. The poor man is sick, hungry, and poor–about as down and out as he can be. The well-clothed, well-fed rich man is oblivious as he can be. The story invites us to place ourselves on a continuum between the two.
The many people panhandling in our cities puts Sunday’s gospel squarely at our doorsteps. Like the rich man in the gospel, most of us have people who are poor at our subways stops, our ATMs, the doorways of our churches, our stop signs. Some have burned out every relationship in their lives for booze or drugs. Others struggle with mental illness and a lifestyle too unstable to stay on their medications. Prophets like Amos in Sunday’s first reading condemn comfort and complacency without regard for people in need.
What value do you find in distancing yourself from people who are poor? What value have you found in connecting and learning from them?
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