Opening the Shades?
In recent weeks the Sunday readings have focussed on the deceptiveness of wealth enticing the rich to presume they can ensure a secure future, the potential idolatry of processions, the importance of attending to the poor, and the critical importance of the manner in which we give alms.
The story of Lazarus and Dives is aimed at Luke’s community which composed of either predominantly rich people needing to be reminded of their obligations to the poor or a community with tension between the rich and poor. The parable has all ‘lovers of money’ in its sights and invites us to reflect two kinds of generosity – the generosity of God’s mercy toward sinners and our generosity toward the poor in the use of possessions.
In this Gospel, the poor man is given the name Lazarus (meaning “my God helps”) to remind us that the “anonymous poor” are known by God and that wealth carries with it a different and more tragic kind of anonymity, for Dives is a Latin word for ‘a rich person’.
Luke emphasises the social difference that separates then: the poor beggar is covered with sores and lacks the energy or the will to chase away the scavenger dogs while the rich man is described by the manner of his extravagant dress and diet.
At the heart of the Gospel is the great reversal in which the rich and powerful, who in life perceive no need for divine grace, and are cut off from the people of God while the poor, the lowly, and the outcasts are given a proper place in the community of faith.
It is only after the death of both characters and their reversed positions in the afterlife that we see the real problem with the rich man. The difficulty in their relationship all those years on earth was that the rich man never saw Lazarus. It is only after death that for the first time the rich man sees Lazarus.
For the rich man, and even for ourselves, prosperity has a way of limiting our perception, of closing the shades of the distasteful, so as not to disturb our enjoyment.
We must ask ourselves, how many issues in the world today do we continue to ignore? It can be the simple things in a relationship that separate people or there can be the largescale and complex issues like climate change, global warming, pandemics, etc. Regardless of the issue, without awareness and action we are warned that when we do take notice it might be too late!
So, time to open the shades perhaps?
Fr Stephen Berecz