September 25, 2022: Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel: 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.’ Abraham replied, ‘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.’”
Lately, I have been using visual art depictions of Scriptural passages when I pray with the Gospel. Today’s passage has been illustrated by several artists over the last 400-500 years. Although each painting is unique, the common themes that have been prominently depicted are a self-satisfied man, surrounded by signs of incredible wealth, enjoying a sumptuous feast, either alone or as the obvious host of an opulent banquet. Then, there is the barely clothed, emaciated Lazarus, in a nearby doorway or at a gate. He remains unseen by the rich man because the latter is blind to the needs and sufferings of others and to his own responsibility to share his possessions with his neighbor. From the obscure place in society that Lazarus occupies, only a dog or dogs take note of him and instinctively tend to his wounds as they would to their own. The words and the art convey a stinging indictment of the drastic inequities between rich and poor, between compassion and indifference. Lazarus and his needs are “hidden in plain sight,” invisible to the unnamed wealthy man, and his acts of omission have needlessly and painfully deprived Lazarus of his human dignity. Lazarus, though, is not invisible to God and, at his death, angels escort him to a place of light, happiness and peace. In stark contrast, the man of great wealth is now eternally damned to the hidden place of darkness known as the netherworld.
This week, let us ask God to help us see the extent to which we can do something about the misery in our world, that which is distant and that which is near at hand. What are some of the “riches” we are called on to share with the “Lazaruses” in our everyday lives?