Gospel Reflection Sept 25 – Kim VanHuffel
Sunday, September 25
Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Luke 16: 19 – 31
Jesus said to the Pharisees:
“There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen
and dined sumptuously each day.
And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores,
who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps
that fell from the rich man’s table.
Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.
When the poor man died,
he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham.
The rich man also died and was buried,
and from the netherworld, where he was in torment,
he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off
and Lazarus at his side.
And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me.
Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue,
for I am suffering torment in these flames.’
‘My child, remember that you received
what was good during your lifetime
while Lazarus likewise received what was bad;
but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented.
Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established
to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go
from our side to yours or from your side to ours.’
He said, ‘Then I beg you, father,
send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers,
so that he may warn them,
lest they too come to this place of torment.’
But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets.
Let them listen to them.’
He said, ‘Oh no, father Abraham,
but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
Then Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets,
neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.'”
Before I had kids, I used to travel for work. One time I had to be in India for two months. The amount of poverty in Bombay (now Mumbai) was overwhelming. I was told I absolutely had to ignore all of the beggars or I would be overtaken by lots of people. When I went to Mass, there were literally gates around the church and poor people actually lying outside the gate. How do you reconcile going into Mass and ignoring the poor right outside the church doors? Of course they were in my prayers, but that wasn’t enough. The first day that I got home from Mass, I was desolate. I sat on the couch and saw the beautiful fruit bowl that the hotel kept stocked for me each day. I was just as bad as the rich man! I started stashing away the fruit and by Sunday I was able to hand a piece of fruit to each person I encountered on my way into Mass. Just as importantly, I was able to look them in the eye and let them know they were seen. I still think back on that time often and wonder if it was enough. Of course it wasn’t! But it was something.
Gates and barriers that separate the rich from the poor are still everywhere. Society is structured to favor the wealthy and make it difficult for the poor to receive proper food, hygiene, medical care, housing, etc. We are blessed at St. Brigid to have the Social Action Committee that helps the poor and brings needs to our attention.
But today’s parable isn’t really about rich or poor; or even heaven or hell. After all, Abraham was a rich man and he was in heaven, consoling Lazarus. Today’s parable is about seeing and believing. We need to see people in need and believe that Jesus rose from the dead to save us, all of us. This parable is Jesus telling us to open our eyes and our hearts and take care of others; to see their pain or their plight and to help them, even when it seems like it might not be enough. Scripture tells us that Lazarus would have been happy with the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. People are suffering everywhere. Kind words, smiles, and even scraps matter.