Today’s Gospel: Luke 16, 19-31 – 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Maybe the wealthy man was blind to the beggar Lazarus who lay at his front door? No, while the wealthy man suffers in Gehenna, he clearly recognizes Lazarus in heaven and expects him to do what he himself had never done for Lazarus.
Maybe the wealthy man never heard the Golden Rule? Except – he addresses Abraham as “Father,” proving he was aware of the prophets and probably paid them no heed.
Jesus’ parable does not tell why he ignored Lazarus, but we know how society worked then and still does: the wealthy have power and privilege; the poor are marginalized and set apart.
Even so, how could anyone be unmoved by the sick, starving beggar? We easily condemn the wealthy man’s heartlessness. But as sinners ourselves, we can learn from him by looking upon him compassionately and asking: Why did he refuse to help?
The privileged have a lot to lose, which fuels fear, a deterrent to choosing to love. Did the man fear contracting Lazarus’ illness? Was he afraid of losing friends and business prospects, or of compromising his financial future? Had he feared being taken for a fool?
How often have these fears stopped us from reaching out to the destitute? As much as we want to live the Gospel and be like Jesus in our own time, sometimes we fear the unfamiliar, uncomfortable places where walking in our neighbor’s shoes might take us.
Let’s begin with small steps: to regard the Lazaruses — and the heartless among us – as neighbors whom we must love as ourselves, and to pray to overcome the fears which prevent us from opening our hands and hearts to them.
Who are the neighbors to whom my door remains closed? What fear keeps that door locked? What must I do to be healed of that fear?
Heavenly Father, open my eyes to recognize Your face in those around me. Open my heart to accept and embrace them as my sisters and brothers.
Copyright 2016 Dorothy K. LaMantia
Dorothy LaMantia’s spiritual journey has taken her to marriage and motherhood, careers as a writer and as a teacher, and the privilege of serving in parish ministries. She is a freelance writer for the Diocese of Trenton, NJ and received an award for reporting from the Catholic Press Association. Her stories appear in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, “Living Catholic Faith,” “Reflections for Tough Times,” and “It’s Christmas!”