26 September 2010
My dear friends,
Try to imagine a July day in Florida, a man sitting at his desk in an air-conditioned room, the temperature in the room a comfortable 68 degrees. He feels full of energy.
He looks out the window and sees a teenage boy working in the grounds. He looks like a prisoner doing forced labour. His movements are slow and he rests frequently. “How can a young man be so lazy?” the man askes himself.
Later in the morning, the man went outside on some business. As soon as he stepped outside he was hit by a wave of heat which stopped him in his tracks. It was over 90 degrees outside and the humidity at least as high. He realised now what the boy was up against.
Though his world was separated only by the width of a wall from the world of the boy, those two worlds could hardly have been more different. Yet unless he left his own world and entered that of the youth, he would never have known the difference. We can be within arm’s reach of someone, yet be living in a different world from that person. But we’ll never know the difference unless we leave our world and enter that of the other person. We will never understand it from the outside.
The rich man and Lazarus lived in opposite worlds, yet those worlds lay side by side. But the rich man never entered the world of the poor man. He didn’t see Lazarus as a human being. He was indifferent to him and indifference is not acceptable in the way of Christ.
Riches can make a person self-preoccupied. They can blind a person to the needs of others and harden the heart. That is the real tragedy. The rich man did not in a way hurt or exploit the poor man. Yet we are told he ended up in the torment of Hades. He was condemned not because he was rich but because he didn’t show compassion for the poor man. He lived only for himself.
Sin is not only about doing wrong. It is also about not doing good, doing nothing, or worse still the sin of indifference. This is not a pleasant parable and there is no happy ending for Dives, the central character in the story.
May the Lord, who entered fully into our world, help us to enter the world of those who are in pain or in need. Then, having experienced what life is like for them, we will surely be moved to do what we can to help them. As people who stand in daily need of God’s mercy and goodness, as people who pray with hands held out like a beggar’s bowl, we should in turn try to be kind, generous and merciful with others because the measure we give will be the measure we receive.
+Liam S. MacDaid