September 29, 2019
Dear Followers of the Master,
Today’s story from Luke 16:19-31 speaks boldly to us. The rich man remains as image of our power and prestige even today. The poor man at his door is invisible to the well-dressed man who has everything. The inability of the rich man to see, to really view the poor man is an ongoing concern in our day and society. This story is linked to our redemption in Christ Jesus.
We all struggle to see beyond our own needs. We all strive to protect what we own. We all are blind so often to the needs of people. We also struggle to view strangers as people. These ideas are imbedded in today’s gospel. In many ways, human relationships have not changed much in all these generations. The gospel story tries to change our minds about how we treat one another here on earth. Life among us looks different in Christ Jesus. Let’s open our eyes.
The tensions between rich and poor are strong. At Sacred Heart, we serve many people in the course of a week. The dedicated volunteers in our food pantry serve many folks who come to us hungry. Many of them have housing, but not the ability to make ends meet. Some of them live outside and food is always a struggle. Many people come to the parish center to attend an AA meeting. Some of them come because the court system tells them to get sober. Some people come because they can’t live with themselves another day since they have lost spouses and children and homes, jobs and health.
In my years of priesthood, I have learned many things about the tensions of those who have and those who don’t. Poverty is threatening to us. No one wants to lose jobs, careers, possessions, spouses and health. No one wants to be a “loser” in society’s eyes. However, the threat of poverty gets transferred to people and how we view other human beings.
People who have lost everything become a threat to people who have everything in their control. The rich struggle to view the poor because they are afraid they will lose everything as well. If we can bridge this gap of fear, we learn to accept people as people. This is what faith is all about. We cannot blame people for being poor. We cannot blame people for the disease of alcoholism. The notion of telling people to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps is not a reality anymore.
We need to restore our awareness of people. This is the essence of the gospel today. Jesus’ mission on earth was to restore our awareness that the lost have a home. His mission was to offer peace, forgiveness and comfort. These things are hard to come by in our world. These things are not pious rhetoric. Jesus offers us these divine gifts in order to open our eyes to the reality of people. When we fear people in poverty, we distance our selves from faith and even Christ Jesus.
Our possessions on earth are illusive. We cannot control them in the end. They can easily slip through our fingers. Our possessions do not name who we are in God. I invite you to take some time this week and reflect on your fear when you encounter a stranger, especially when the unknown person has few possessions. Can we learn from the man in purple in today’s gospel that our eyes and minds need to be opened?