Saturday, September 25, 2010

Christ, veiled in the humanity we often ignore and despise (Reflections on the Gospel of the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Luke 16:19-31)

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What was the sin of the rich man in today’s gospel? He had not ordered Lazarus to be removed from his gate. He had made no objections to his receiving the bread that was flung away from his table. He did not kick him as he passed by. Nor was he deliberately cruel to him.

For all intents and purposes, the rich man in the gospel may have actually been a rather good man by the standards of the Judaism of his day. He was wealthy and powerful; and those were always signs that one was blessed on account of his goodness. Why was he cast into hell then? What was his sin?

The sin of the rich man was that he never noticed. He had come to accept Lazarus the poor man to already be part of the landscape and simply thought it perfectly natural and inevitable that Lazarus should lie in pain and hunger while he lived in luxury. He had come to accept the fact that poverty, misery and suffering are normal things in life that require no effort at all on his part to alleviate, or even to notice.

The sin of the rich man was that he could look on the world's suffering and need and feel no sword of grief and pity pierce his heart; he looked at a fellowman, hungry and in pain, and did nothing about it. His therefore, was the punishment of the man who never noticed. Would that we be different from him and notice the poor, hungry and lonely in our midst. Would that we remember that if we fail to see them, we fail to see Christ himself.

"The Kingdom of Heaven is a condition of the heart." (Friedrich Nietzsche)