Jesus is God’s resounding “no” to indifference toward the needy.
The parable of the unnamed rich man and poor Lazarus condemns indifference toward the poor and helpless. It is not that the rich man is explicitly unjust. Apparently, it does not bother him that Lazarus is lying at his door. The rich man’s indifference alone is enough to make him deserving of hell.
First, what is wrong about indifference is that it connotes dehumanization. According to St. Vincent de Paul (SV.EN XII:222), to be a Christian and see our brother suffering without weeping with him, without being sick with him, is to be inhuman. It is to be worse than beasts.
Moreover, those engrossed in themselves, their pleasures and wealth hardly attain self-fulfillment. Because of the indifference that results from self-absorption, one finds it difficult to be true to the social dimension of human existence. It is with reason, then, that the rich man does not have a name.
Secondly, indifference is wrong because of the great chasm that it establishes.
True, Lazarus is physically close to the rich man. Still, the great chasm between the two does not escape notice.
And, yes, there is a sharp contrast between the rich man and Lazarus. The former dresses up luxuriously and dines sumptuously each day. The latter lies on the floor, covered with sores. He longs, in vain probably, to satisfy his hunger with the scraps falling from the plentiful and delightful table. Dogs lick his sores too.
Yet those who enjoy plenty and those who have nothing do not stop being brothers and sisters despite the sharp contrast between them that human indifference does not want to deal with. The rich and the poor do not stop having a common Father, notwithstanding the great chasm that indifference establishes. We cannot turn our backs, then, to our needy brothers and sisters without denying, in effect, that God is Father to all of us.
Hence, to honor concretely our heavenly Father is to be ill ourselves because of the collapse of our brothers. It entails leaving God for God to attend to the poor who is knocking at the door (SV.EN IX:252). To practice righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience and gentleness means to solve misery now by doing as Jesus. He is the perfect fulfillment of the law and the prophets. If in this world a chasm cuts us off from the least of our brothers and sister, a chasm in the world beyond will separate us from the blessed.
Lord Jesus, grant us to have the poor sit at our table, so that you may then make us sit at your heavenly table.
September 25, 2016
26th Sunday in O.T. (C)
Am 6,1a. 4-7; 1 Tim 6, 11-16; Lk 16, 19-31