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Homily: The Relevance of the Story of Lazarus Today

By Mons. Peter Jeffrey:

The story of Dives & Lazarus is only in Luke’s Gospel. We might find this story troubling for a number of reasons. One reason is that people, like ourselves living in the developed world are like the Rich Man in Jesus’ parable. We dress smartly and eat well – it is so easy to become “blinkered” in our vision without noticing it.

However, when we think on the global scale, most human beings live on meagre amounts each day. While we may no longer see a poor Lazarus literally at our doorsteps, the people in St. Vincent de Paul can tell us there are always a number of people ‘living in the shadows’ who come seeking help. On a bigger scale we see such poverty on television, radio and internet etc.. It is a big mistake to think that the only ones like Lazarus in the parable are an ocean away from us.

For many in Australia, Christianity has become a comfortable social institution – we might attend Mass regularly, we may try to build community with others, we send our children to Catholic schools. All that may fit into our busy family and working lives with scant awareness or attention to the disenfranchised who may be our near neighbours.

The flip side of that is that with the modern means of communication we are global citizens. We are aware of a much broader spectrum of people and their situations.

In all three readings today - Amos, Paul and Jesus – condemn the rich who show no care and compassion for their neighbours in need. Those readings challenge me to think not merely as a human being intent on my own comfort but to seek to grow in the compassion and love of Jesus. Jesus tells me, and all of us “Love your neighbour as yourself”. When I love this way, I cannot be content to simply enjoy the riches I have, because when others are suffering so am I.

We can find a companion for today’s Gospel in Pope Francis’ document “Evangelii Gaudium” – Joy of the Gospel. He says in paragraph 48: “there is an inseparable bond between our faith and the poor”. Jesus does not ‘mince’ his words – neither does Pope Francis. In paragraph 54, the Pope says: “the culture of prosperity deadens us. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor”. I find those words of the Pope very challenging.

Did you notice that the poor man in today’s Gospel has a name “Lazarus”? We care for people when we know them. Do you know the names of the people in need in your community or neighbourhood?

Pope Francis gives us an even greater challenge – viz not only to know the poor but also to learn from them. He says, “This is why I want a Church that is poor and for the poor. They have much to teach us … in their difficulties they know the sufferings of Christ. We need to let ourselves be evangelised by them” That’s a strong statement – may this Mass help the challenge of that message from Francis to sink more deeply into our conscious awareness!

*26th Sunday Ordinary Time

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