What would Lazarus look like at our ‘door’ . . . and would we notice him?
Living the Word / Sister Rachel Bergschneider, OSB
Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time / Sept. 25
Amos 6:1a,4-7; Psalm 146:7,8-9,9-10; 1 Timothy 6:11-16; Luke 16:19-31
Abou Adam was wealthy according to every earthly measure. At the same time, however, he sincerely strove to be spiritually wealthy as well. One night he was aroused from his sleep by a fearful stomping on the roof above his head. Alarmed, he sat bolt upright in his bed and shouted, “Who’s there?”
“A friend,” came the reply from the roof. “I’ve lost my camel.”
Perturbed by such stupidity, Abou screamed, “You idiot! Are you looking for a camel on the roof?”
“You idiot!” the voice shot back. “Are you looking for God in silk clothing, lying on a golden bed?”
In today’s readings, Amos describes people who look for God in their own pleasure; in the Gospel, the unnamed wealthy man looked for God in a comfortable, luxurious lifestyle. He was clothed in “purple and fine linen and feasted sumptuously every day.” (Luke 16:19) And Lazarus, whose name means “God will help” sits outside the comfortable entrance of the wealthy man surrounded by dogs and described “as if his wounds were his attire,” hoping only for a scrap of leftovers. He was totally ignored by the wealthy man.
Lazarus died and was carried to the bosom of Abraham. Abraham, known for his hospitality, was the perfect antidote for the wealthy man who cared for no one except himself. When the wealthy man found himself in Hades, a place of torment, he called to Abraham to help him. It was too late.
CHOOSING TO SEE
Luke recounts this story Jesus told to shake up his audience. We are the audience today. While most of us will never hear a camel walking on our roof, our pursuit of happiness and search for God can take many strange turns.
We think we are on a spiritual path, but the way for us can become narrow and self-focused. Life can get very complacent, no matter who we are. Comfort in our ordinary surroundings and routine become seductive. We can follow in the footsteps of the wealthy man and find ourselves stepping over the Lazaruses in our life.
A story of a young woman which I recently read makes the point quite poignantly. ”I missed my first flight to LA yesterday and was so upset, but now I know why. When I went to the baggage area to claim my luggage, I stopped in the bathroom. I heard a woman crying so hard. I was wondering if I should say something like, ‘It’s gonna be OK,’ but I was nervous and she was speaking Spanish so I didn’t know if she’d even understand me. I left and came back to the bathroom like four times while I was waiting for my bags. I heard her say, ‘But the bus doesn’t come until tomorrow.’
“My heart dropped, so I asked her if she had CashApp. She said no. So I asked her if I could pay for a hotel until tomorrow and she stopped crying and opened the stall door and I saw the sleeping kids. I felt so happy to help her, knowing I’d just be spending my little money on nothing. She rode with me to the Marriott and I got her a room. I wanted to share this because I kept thinking, ‘How many people came into the bathroom, heard her crying for hours, and kept going.’” (Cyn Symone)
God is present in so many ways. We have the eyes to see if we choose to see. We have the ability to respond if only we have the heart to feel and respond to the need. What would Lazarus look like at our “door”. . . . and would we notice him?
SISTER RACHEL BERGSCHNEIDER, OSB, is a member of the Sisters of St. Benedict of St. Mary Monastery, Rock Island. She ministers at the Peoria County Jail, serving as a facilitator in the Jobs Partnership program.