Luke 16: 19-26
The chronically mentally ill person on State Street raves and rattles a sheaf of papers at passersby. Some of us feel afraid and cross the street, looking in an attractive store window to soothe ourselves. We wish the police would do something. A woman walks past the bleary-eyed stranger and says hello, asks how his day is going. He stops ranting and says hello back, asks her if she’ll buy a newspaper. She agrees, pays takes the paper, wishes him a good day, is off to work. He begins ranting again, but his voice is softer now. In today’s gospel, the author of Luke continues to show us how to see others. The poor man, named Lazarus, lies at the rich man’s gate, prepared to receive any crumbs the household would brush his way. Scholars tell us that the name Lazarus was probably chosen for its meaning as the servant of Abraham and Sarah, our forebears. Could Luke be asking us to think of Lazarus also as the representative of the poor and humble everywhere? The rich man leaves his gate and steps over Lazarus, poor, hungry and sick, probably disgusting-looking, and goes off to his destination. This is when I begin to squirm. How often do we hurry on our way to a meeting or the grocery store, failing to see those around us? We clutch our resources close, our money and our time, and scurry on, living in a self-centered mentality of scarcity.
Often the suffering and needs of others are visible in areas of desperate poverty and in war zones; sometimes the needs are less visible, as in the case of discrimination against groups of people. Luke reminds us first to see, then to have compassion, allowing our hearts to be melted by our vision. In that transformed state, we are asked to act on behalf of those who need our help. Crossing the road and looking away from the beating victim, stepping over and not seeing the beleaguered Lazarus, leaving the widowed woman alone to perish; these are all examples of stepping over the outcasts Luke calls us to consider. Who are the outcasts we overlook today? Quickly name to yourself the groups of people, the situations, you’d rather not notice. How do we keep our eyes open, see and be transformed through compassion, and act? What small actions may make a difference?