Thursday March 24
Scripture: Lk 16: 19-31
In today’s Gospel Jesus addresses the Pharisees by presenting a parable that shows the stark contrast of the rich man’s wealth and Lazarus’ poverty. The rich man completely focuses on himself - every day he is impeccably dressed and eats lavishly. He has no regard for anyone. Of course he does not recognise that someone very close to him urgently needs his help. This attitude of the rich man reminds me of our human tendency to be personal. We speak in terms of my house, my property, my money to use as I please. The poor, we are often told, help keep us on track, remind us that our wealth/talents are gifts not only for ourselves but for others too.
This Gospel passage brings to my mind a conversation that I had with a mother. She shared her experience of deep loneliness and sense of failure towards her children. She longed to converse with them, to hear what was happening with them, to share in their joys and sorrows. But everyone in her family was always too busy about his/her own relationships or too tired to share their space with her. She would make herself available and even open to talk but it would only leave her exhausted in the end because she was the one driving the conversation. She agonised over this situation for a long time and sought advice from friends and family. Eventually, she came to terms with the reality and learnt how to let go of her children and accept and love them as they were. She felt she “was carried by angels to be with Abraham”. Her security was no longer threatened. I could identify with this mother: we are created not to be alone, but to be loved; not to be users of one another but to be partners in this world.
The rich man however did not understand this. He was not a bad man; he just was not aware of Lazarus’ difficulty; his apathy and selfishness blinded him. He was so distracted by the events of his own life that he was unable to see. It is he who created the great gap between them – his blatant refusal to recognise the needs of the poor man was his great sin. He did not understand the value of building relationships and how it could keep him in good stead in the future and therefore as a result “he died and was buried”.
The nation is usually outraged, and rightly so, when we hear of the neglect and abuse of children while their parents are out having a good time. This kind of parental behaviour is condemned and never tolerated. In today’s Gospel story, Lazarus is the victim of neglect and abuse at the hands of the rich man who was in a position to help but instead chose to treat himself in his own riches while Lazarus languished on his doorstep feeding on the scraps that fell from his table.
St Luke tells us today to be in solidarity with the poor who suffer abuse and neglect at the hands of the rich and powerful. As disciples of Jesus, we are called to conversion, to exercise hospitality to our brothers and sisters as well as to holding ourselves responsible by ensuring their needs are met. Amen