Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Why don't your eyes see me?

Illustration of Lazarus at the rich man's gate by Fyodor Bronnikov, 1886.
In tomorrow’s Gospel we see the familiar passage in which Jesus speaks a parable about Lazarus and the rich man.  He tells the Pharisees in his presence about these two men and how they lived their earthly life.  One was a poor beggar who sat at the rich man's doorstep begging for scraps.  The other an extremely wealth man.   A man not just presented as well to do, but extremely wealthy.  Dressed in purple and fine linen, he dined sumptuously. 

sumptuous[suhmp-choo-uh s]
1.entailing great expense, as from choice materials, fine work, etc.;costly:a sumptuous residence.
2.luxuriously fine or large; lavish; splendid:a sumptuous feast.

Here is this man who has these magnificently lavish feasts daily, not just on special occasions.  His life is full of excess, full of carnal pleasures.   How great a contrast we have with Lazarus, the beggar.   This man has no fine clothing.  He sits begging at the door of the rich man's abode desiring to even eat the crumbs that fall from his table.  Alas, they are consumed by the very dogs that lick the poor ragamuffins’ wounds.  He has no one to support him, no one to bandage and dress him that he might get better, but is tormented by the very animals that eat the food he so ardently needs to survive.  

Oh how this speaks to my heart during Lent as we try to raise money to build a well to bring clean water to those in distant countries who do not have any, or have very little access to them.  We who sit lavishly in our homes with an unlimited supply to be had.  They who just wish to drink of the drops that we so dishonorably waste in our excess. How can we not recognize Lazarus, the hungry beggar in the parable (cf. Lk 17:19-31), in the multitude of human beings without bread, a roof or a place to stay? How can we fail to hear Jesus: "As you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me" (Mt 25:45)? (CCC 2463)  During the super bowl this year, the only football game I actually chose to watch, there was this amazing commercial about water conservation.   Colgate took a moment to highlight how much water we truly do waste, how much we take for granted, how much we let fall to the wayside to be consumed by the dogs of our sewers, instead of protecting for those who have none.  They sit at the gate of our hearts and beg to partake of just our scraps, and are we aware?

When the disciples begged Jesus for their own crumbs, he fed them exorbitantly from the masters table.   They said Master teach us how to pray and he so obliged, not holding back but opening up the floodgates of heaven with the prayer that is familiar to Christians of all backgrounds. In the Our Father we ask specifically for our daily bread.    This speaks of trusting in God for God’s provision, not that we should become lax in our duty to try and earn our bread, nor that we should just stop providing and protecting our families, but that we should be aware of the blessings we receive.  

But the presence of those who hunger because they lack bread opens up another profound meaning of this petition. The drama of hunger in the world calls Christians who pray sincerely to exercise responsibility toward their brethren, both in their personal behavior and in their solidarity with the human family. This petition of the Lord's Prayer cannot be isolated from the parables of the poor man Lazarus and of the Last Judgment. (2831)

How felicitous it is that the Church has been guided by the Holy Spirit to share this pericope of scripture with us at this point during Lent.   To remind us of our duty to the poor as we are reminded of one of the three pillars of the journey through the desert, almsgiving. What are we doing to help those in need?  How are we using our prayer, fasting, and almsgiving to bring that change into the world and into our own hearts?  It’s not enough to simply conserve water, we need to be sharing it.  God does not give us these wonderful blessings in our lives to be hoarded in our cabinets for future meals of our own.  He intends them to be given out to those who have none.  That is why the goal of Lent should not just be to reduce our consumption through fasting, but to then take that money that we have saved and use it to feed another.  

It’s an opportunity for us to go out to the gate of our own hearts, lift up Lazarus as he sits watching our comfort, bring him into our home and bandage him, clean him up, care for him and nourish him to health.  Lent is supposed to change us.  It’s supposed to draw us closer to who Christ is.  Christ heals.  Christ cures.  Christ feeds.  Christ loves.  As I sit here in my heated home, typing on my chromebook, surrounded by loved ones, books, comforts.. blessings, I realize I am not doing enough. How about you?  Remember too that there are two responses to Jesus message today.  Lazarus was downtrodden, a broken man who sat at the mercy of the world.  Yet, we see from his presence in Abraham’s bosom that he never blamed God for it.   He never turned his back on his faith.   The rich man had every material comfort needed, but when he died he went to eternal torment.  It’s apparent that in his faith he knew he needed to repent, he knew he needed to serve, he knew what he was doing was wrong.  He kept it all for himself.

Which are we today? Are we Lazarus? Do we put our faith in God no matter what comes? Are we the rich man?  Do we ignore God’s prompting to do good and simply lavish ourselves with comfort in a grand hedonism?  Today if you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your heart.  Trust in God.  Find comfort in his promise. Find a way to reach out to those in need materially, physically, and spiritually.  You have been called to the greatest feast of all time, the wedding feast of the Lamb. You receive the most extravagant meal in the entire universe in the Eucharist... are you sharing those crumbs? Or keeping them for yourself? We are the hands and feet of Christ, we have work to do Church!

His servant and yours,

He must increase, I must decrease.