Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Don’t delude yourselves, Jesus says through the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. We really are supposed to care for others. It is not enough to go to Mass and occasionally serve at a parish or outreach function. We cannot remain complacent and consider ourselves followers of Jesus. No matter how much or how little material wealth we have, we always have something to give—our time and attention, care, and, when possible, our money. The way we treat and care for others, especially the poor and vulnerable, is the manner in which we show our love of God. As disciples, we must “pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness.” Jesus calls us to see and respond to the least among us, because, as God’s children, we are all part of one another.
HE MISSED THE POINT
The parable of the rich man and Lazarus is a powerful and painful cautionary tale. The Gospel narrative paints a vivid picture. We can imagine the poor man, Lazarus, lying at the door of the rich man. We can see the rich man in our mind’s eye, well-dressed and well-fed. The rich man has walked past Lazarus every day but has never really seen him. Even though he knows Lazarus’ name, he does not matter to the rich man. Lazarus matters to God, however. The rich man did not only fail to care for Lazarus in life. He expected Lazarus to serve him in the afterlife. He is totally focused on himself. Only after he realizes the eternal consequences of his failure to care does he think of his brothers. And even then, he expects Lazarus to be his messenger! The rich man missed the point of the commandments and the witness of the prophets, in life and in death.
SEE LAZARUS IN OUR MIDST
As people of faith, Lazarus must matter to us as well. It is impossible to hear this parable without thinking of the poor and homeless in our cities, on our streets. We may not know them, but they have names. We may not understand their circumstances, but they are our brothers and sisters. Jesus’ life and teaching show us that God’s way is the way of love. Jesus sacrificed everything on the cross, and leads us to give beyond what we think we can or should, to pour ourselves out for the sake of others. How much like the rich man are we? We cannot solve all of the issues of poverty and homelessness in our cities, country, and world. But we are called to do something, to pay attention, to truly care, to advocate for justice and fairness, to see and to love the person on the street, as a person. As Lazarus.