The Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to Luke
Jesus said, “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham.
The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, `Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’
But Abraham said, `Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’
He said, `Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house– for I have five brothers– that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, `They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’
He said, `No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, `If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'” (Luke 16:19-31)
The war in Ukraine grinds on with more hospitals, schools, and homes destroyed and people killed, injured, homeless, orphaned.
The war in Yemen also continues and millions there are starving,
There are other wars, conflicts, opportunities to deal death, going on all the time.
Destruction comes from bombing by planes, long distance shelling, deadly missiles, and so on.
And then there is the bombing of vehicles trying to bring aid into the city?
Trucks and their contents destroyed, and their drivers and helpers killed?
And have you seen the pictures of make-shift hospitals destroyed and medical staff killed, and so on?
The destruction is visible to the world – we see war up close, courtesy of television reporting, but ironically, those who drop the bombs, or send out missiles, or shell from distance, don’t see the people they kill, maim or leave homeless.
They can’t see them, so they don’t exist.
The man described in the parable told by Jesus, was immensely rich, if we judge by the clothing he wears – probably the most expensive that could be bought at the time, and the food he ate – exotic meals every day, when the average person at the time was lucky to get one good meal a week.
He was extremely wealthy.
I wonder though, if he were as wealthy as the executive who not so long ago, retired from Wells Fargo after running the division that was responsible for a massive fraud, and who took home 125 million dollars in settlement pay.
The wealthy man in Jesus’ story , as people did at the time, ate with his fingers, and then wiped them clean with bread, throwing the bread away and it was that bread – the crumbs from his table – that Lazarus grasped for.
Lazarus, clothed in rags, didn’t even have the strength to ward off the dogs that licked his sores.
And the rich man, as he left his home daily, walked straight past the man at his gate – didn’t even see him.
Indeed for this man, Lazarus was invisible.
He just didn’t exist.
Just as for those dealing death in Ukraine, and other places, the people don’t exist.
It didn’t help that the rich man’s condition was a thousand miles from Lazarus’s condition.
My early years were spent in a slum with no electricity, a toilet outside in an alley and shared with our neighbour, cold water only from the one tap, and one meager fire to warm the house.
If my parents could see how I live today they would be amazed, They would think I was a millionaire.
That goes for most of us I think.
We have more than our parents, in most cases, and we take it for granted.
We are not rich.
We are just regular people.
There is no need to feel guilty because we have worked hard and done alright.
The question is, ‘ Do we see those who haven’t fared so well?’
Or are they invisible to us?
Do we watch the news, or read our newspaper and see the atrocities that are inflicted on people, and switch channels, or turn the page.
So that they become invisible to us?
It is understandable, if that is so, because there is so much horrible stuff to read about, the temptation is to skip past it.
It is too much to digest. Too disturbing,.
My mother in law used to get so upset at what was in the news that she stopped watching the news, or reading a paper altogether.
She couldn’t take it.
You see those babies being rescued from the rubble, some in hospital beds, crying in pain and for their mothers, who may be dead, and you cry for them.
What can we do?
There isn’t too much we can do, unfortunately. We can’t stop the bombing of Ukraine, we can’t stop the bombing in Yemen.
We can’t stop evil people from wanting power for its own sake, rather than wanting to improve people’s lives.
We can’t just go into those war zones and bring those babies to our own homes.
What can we do?
I don’t have much of an answer for you, unfortunately.
All I can say is that when you see an appeal for help, and your heart is touched, don’t dismiss it, or turn the page, but consider responding.
When you see someone lying in a doorway, trying to sleep out there in the cold, and you feel tempted to help them, don’t turn away. Pull a five or a ten out of your pocket and slip it into their hand.
You can’t address what it is that prevents that person from participating in society, but you can help them get food for the day.
I was in Philadelphia once, and going back to my hotel with a colleague on a cold, cold night, when I saw a black man, sitting on a wall, outside a town house.
Spending the night there!
On that wall!
He was huddled up in a thin coat, no hat, no gloves.
I took a US ten dollar bill – that’s all – and slipped it into his hand as I passed by.
“God bless you,” he called after me.
I was blessed! For a measly ten dollars!
Measly to me, but worth a lot to him.
For just ten dollars, God blessed me?
Likewise, I was in Montreal one time and as a friend and I walked along the sidewalk, I saw a man with some sort of disability requiring a crutch, and obviously penniless. I pulled a bill from my pocket, probably only five dollars, and pressed it into the man’s hand as we walked by.
No one saw, but the poor man limped down the street after me, calling out, a thank you and a God Bless you, in French.
I wasn’t going to get away without him thanking me, and have God bless me
My friend translated for me. Then he gave the man something too.
I am not telling you this as an example of my generosity, I have also told you of times when I wasn’t generous – and these incidents are nothing for me to be proud of, but just to show, that those who are invisible can bring God’s blessing on us when see them – when we acknowledge their visibility – their presence!.
A down and out, a homeless person, someone with nothing, blessed me??
Can’t I who have so much, bless someone?
What can I do?
What can you do?
We can pray for peace. Pray for those who are suffering. Do whatever you can to help.
But whatever you do, don’t let those children of God become invisible to you.
Another lesson we can take from this parable, is that in the afterlife, this rich man had nothing, not even a drink of water.
He couldn’t take his riches with him.
And even then he didn’t repent. Even then, he couldn’t see where he had been wrong.
But he did see the danger in living as he had lived and wanted his brothers alerted.
“Send Lazarus, to get me water,” he asked, “And to warn my brothers.”
“Don’t bother,” Abraham said, “They wouldn’t believe him, even if he came back from the dead.”
That was true, of course, of those who were the targets of this parable – the self-righteous, the rich, the religious elite.
Jesus rose from the dead, and was seen by hundreds of people.
The disciples witnessed to the life-giving power of the Risen Christ.
But the religious people of the time, secure in their place in society and their wealth, just couldn’t see it.
It wasn’t within their scope you might say.
They couldn’t see the humanity, the intrinsic value, the image of Christ in the poor and downtrodden, the outcasts, the prostitutes, the penniless widows, orphans, slaves, who were a big part of their society .
They couldn’t see them, because it just wasn’t within their purview
How could they go about their daily business, without being aware of the conditions of the time?
By purposely not seeing?
Turning the page?
Looking the other way?
Hardening their hearts?
Knowing that they couldn’t change the way things were, even if they did see the need, would they see changing it as too big a job?
I am sure you have heard the story of the two men walking along the beach, and seeing hundreds of starfish left behind by the tide and drying out, dying in the sun.
One of them stooped down picked up a starfish and threw it into the surf.
The other man said, ” There are so many. How can that make a difference?. “
“It made a difference to that one,” he replied.
Don’t be put off by the size of the challenge.
If you make a difference in just one life, you will be blessed.
You will be blessed in this life, and in the next.