Saturday, September 29, 2007


(26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, C)

In order to start reflecting on the good news that Luke gives us today, we have to think back a few Sundays—thirty-two in fact—to the sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time when we heard Luke’s beatitudes and woes. Recall Luke’s first beatitude:

Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

And recall the first woe that goes with it:

But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.

In today’s Gospel, in the story of the rich man and Lazarus, this beatitude and this woe come true. The rich man who enjoyed himself—all the while ignoring the needs of others—dies, is buried, and goes to his torment. But Lazarus the poor and sick man, neglected by those who could have helped, dies and is carried off to the “bosom of Abraham.”

The story illustrates for us the spiritual danger of riches. Riches can easily make people arrogant, and arrogance is the opposite of the fundamental virtue we are called to before God: humility. And this isn’t just the riches of material wealth! It could be riches of talent, of education, of class, of position in this world. It can even, as we know so well in our shallow culture, be the riches of something like good looks. Any of these forms of wealth and influence carry the danger of making us arrogant.

Look how arrogant the rich man in the Gospel is! Even after he dies and goes to his torment, he is still trying to boss the poor man around! He says to Abraham, ‘send that poor man down here to get me some water.’ Even after the warning of the beatitude and woe come true, he still thinks he’s better than Lazarus the poor man. He hasn’t learned his lesson. His arrogance has blinded him.

We must all be on guard against this kind of arrogance. In place of it we must cultivate sensitivity and humility. We need to pray for the willingness to see the poor who lie at the gates of our civilization. The prophet Amos accused the arrogant rich of his own time with not being upset about the “collapse of Joseph.” We too are called to be upset at the sin, violence, and suffering that is so common—and so needless—in our world. It’s like the old bumper sticker says,

If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.

But we need to be upset in such a way that we are led to action—to beginning to change our own hearts and to seek to change the world around us. And to do this we need God. For without God, the question of what to do about the poverty, hunger and wars of this world will leave us overwhelmed and paralyzed.

If we want to do something about poverty and suffering, if we want to learn compassion, we must look first to Jesus Christ who had compassion on us and suffers with us on the Cross. It is from him that we will learn how to act, how to “pursue righteousness” as Paul puts it in the second reading today.

God noticed the suffering and meaninglessness of death we had brought upon ourselves in our sins, and he sent his son to enter into our suffering and, rising from death, liberate us from it. In the same way, if we are to be true Christians, if we are to become the body of Christ we receive in this Eucharist, we must notice the suffering and poverty around us, and seek to do something about it.


Rashfriar said...

Peace! Very good reflection, and needed. God bless you!

PlainCatholic said...

Com-Passion is lovely and rich for meditation. Thank You.
Plain Catholic in the Mountains