Sunday, September 25, 2022

The Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In our day, we are more aware than ever before of people who are hungry, sick, poor, homeless, displaced, abused, lonely, addicted, persecuted, victimized by violence, or harmed in natural disasters.


We read reports of such people in our newspapers and magazines. We see their faces and hear their stories on television, cable news, and streaming services. We listen to their pleas for help on the radio and in social media. We learn of their plight in the solicitations we receive in the mail and through phone calls from countless charities.


This Sunday’s Gospel (Luke 16:19-31) certainly makes us aware of our obligation as followers of Christ to help the suffering.


In the Gospel parable told by Jesus, a rich man, “who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day,” ignored the starving and suffering Lazarus at his door. When the rich man died, he ended up in a place of everlasting torment while Lazarus, upon his death, “was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham.” The rich man’s indifference to the needs of Lazarus led to his condemnation.


While Jesus originally told that parable to “the Pharisees who loved money.” (Luke 16:14), its message is meant for all people who encounter persons who are suffering.


As Jesus tells us in the judgment scene found in Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 25:34-46), how we respond to the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the ill, and the imprisoned, will determine whether we are welcomed to the kingdom of heaven or condemned to eternal punishment.


But how can any one of us help all those in need who come to our attention?


Perhaps the answer can be found in Sunday’s parable. The rich man was condemned not because he did nothing for the sick, the hungry, or the suffering who were in his city.


He was condemned because he did nothing for the one suffering individual who had caught his attention.


The rich man was aware of Lazarus. He walked over Lazarus more than once as he lay begging at that rich man’s front door.


The rich man had even come to know Lazarus’ name. When he saw Lazarus with Abraham in the kingdom of heaven, the man cried out, “Father Abraham…send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue.”


Though we cannot help everyone who needs assistance, we can certainly do something for at least one suffering person who catches our attention.


That hurting person could be among our acquaintances, or someone we see each day as we commute to work or school. That hurting person could be a stranger whose photo or story appears in a charitable appeal, or someone who, like Lazarus, directly asks for our help.


Imagine if every follower of Jesus tried to do something for at least one suffering person every week or even each day. Imagine the positive difference those actions would make in our world.


The rich man ignored Lazarus, a suffering person whose plight he had come to know. Unlike that rich man, may we do something good for the suffering “Lazaruses” that we know. We cannot help everyone, but each of us can help someone.


© 2022 Rev. Thomas Iwanowski