Mass celebrated at Tarrawarra Abbey, Yarra Glen

Sunday, 25 September, 2016

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Gospel today gives us a great contrast – between the rich man and Lazarus (Lazarus means help from God), who is simply there asking nothing. Between these two yawns an unbridgeable gap. A chasm of ignorance, egoism and self-sufficiency has opened around the one who enjoys himself, his slumbering conscience untouched by poverty’s reproach.

If we are followers of Christ, then we seek to establish a safe, friendly community. But then it is never entirely without fear. The open hand that symbolises welcome originally showed that a stranger was unarmed. An ancient Chinese sage, Lao Tzu, said that the nearest village should be close enough to hear the dogs bark, but too far to visit. Distance and fences make good neighbours. The tragedies of Bali, the 9th September and now Russia and Jakarta, have made us suspicious of other people, but we are saddened at the death of friendliness.

We live in a rich country, content with what we have. Yet the call of Jesus is to risk, hurrying towards eternal life that which Christ obtained by death. The story of Dives and Lazarus does open out a chasm. Many images confront us. Lazarus is at the gate. She has a dirty face and untidy hair and both she and her little brother have swollen bellies from malnutrition. They live on the streets with an addicted older sister. Neither attends school, neither smiles. Unfortunately, this pair represents a mere fraction of more than a million homeless children who sleep nightly on America’s streets.

So many other stories: A fifteen year old sex worker, an illegal immigrant, a poor person with no access to health care, an unemployed person, a forgotten person in a nursing home, the person next door, lonely since his wife died, yet we have no time for him, someone mentally ill, a shabbily dressed person who offers to do some gardening and is refused. Lazarus is at the gate.

Each Lazarus we meet is a challenge to our humanity, to whether our Christianity and discipleship are authentic. We might ask ourselves, do we have eyes to see, ears to hear, a heart to understand and hands to help the Lazaruses God sends into your life and mine. Lazarus is at the gate. Shall we tend this person now or like the rich man in the Gospel wait until it is too late?

“Jesus Christ was rich, but he became poor to make you rich out of his poverty.” (2 Cor. 8.9)

+ Denis J. Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne.
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