A Question of Awareness

September 25, 2202; Lk 16:19-31; 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The rich man does not fare well in today’s gospel. After his death, he is in torment. This is the bible’s way of saying that he did not live his lifer properly. So what did the rich man do that was wrong? What was his fault? At first we are inclined to say he did not share his food with the poor man Lazarus who would be happy to eat the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. But, true as this is, it does not really go to the heart of the story. If you look at the parable carefully, there is no indication that during the life of the rich man he even knew there was a poor man named Lazarus. It is not that the rich man refused to share food with the poor man. He did not realize that the poor man was there. The sin of the rich man is not a lack of generosity, but a lack of awareness. Even though Lazarus sat at his door, the rich man did not see him as he passed by because he was caught up in his own interests: care for his house, his garments, and the parties with his friends. The rich man simply did not realize that there was a beggar at his gate.

When we look at the gospel in this way it asks us, “Who do we not see who is close to us and in need?” Could it be someone in our family: a son or daughter who keeps indicating they would like to have more of our time; an inlaw dealing with a tragedy; a brother or sister under economic stress. It might be someone at work or at school: the person who eats alone because he or she does not feel welcomed; someone who cries out for affirmation because they doubt their abilities. Perhaps it is someone among our friends or our social contacts: someone becoming more angry each day and needing someone to ask the question, “What’s wrong?”; someone who tells a cruel and predjudicial joke and needs to be respectfully put in their place. Who are the Lazaruses in our lives? Those close to us who are waiting for us to see their need.

Of course seeing a need does not mean we can resolve it. There are some needs that go beyond our ability to address. But the first step is to see that the need is there. And that is what God expects of us.

When the rich man asks Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his five brothers to see the needs that are around them, Abraham refuses. He says they have Moses and the prophets and that should be enough warning for them. The same is true for us. We have Moses, the prophets, Jesus, and the church all saying that it is our responsibility to notice those who are close to us and in need. There is, therefore, no excuse. If God were ask us why did we not help those who were close to us, we cannot say, “ I did not see there was a need.” God could simply say in reply, “I asked you to look at what was around you, and you did not listen.”

1 thought on “A Question of Awareness”

  1. Thank you. I agree with you and believe if we all took care of those we encounter daily what a more loving world thus would be.
    You are so gifted in explaining the bible for us in this time and place,


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