You know that many of us living in the United States, and surely 'most all of us gathered in this church this morning, are among the most well-to-do people on the face of this earth! We are demographically in the top 5% of the several billion people alive today. Very often we don't appreciate how much we have in terms of this world's material goods. We keep comparing ourselves to the Trumps and the Hiltons instead of focusing our attention and concerns on the people who are less fortunate than we are. Today's Gospel alerts us to our responsibilities!
The Lazaruses of this world are legion: they are people in our communities, in our country and across the world who are homeless, who lack health insurance, who earn only pennies a day when they do find work, who don't know where their next meals are coming from, who are refugees because their homeland is ravaged by war, by corrupt government or by natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina.
Jesus tells us that the rich man in today's Gospel suffers a terrible fate upon his death. He is not guilty of murder. He is not guilty of dishonoring his parents, or of committing adultery, or bearing false witness or stealing from his superiors.
His only fault, Jesus reminds us, is his inability to see the poor unfortunate Lazarus sitting each day at his very doorstep : someone he passes by every time he leaves and every time he returns home.
In today's parable, Jesus tells us that the poor man Lazarus, whose body was covered with sores, whose only friends were the dogs that came to lick his wounds, now enjoyed what every Jewish person dreamed of: to be with Sara and Abraham in paradise! Meanwhile the rich man is suffering the torments in the abode of the dead : not because he was rich but because he failed to reach out to the poor at his doorstep!
Jesus insisted that the "fixed chasm" between the two was insurmountable. But the chasm was not of Jesus' making nor God's making. The chasm was built by the rich man himself! We build our own chasm! We chasm builders are seldom intentionally cruel. We just don't notice what's before our very own eyes. We can and do spend hundreds of billions of dollars on a terrible war that ravages a nation and then dismiss the needy citizens of our own country whose lives are devastated by disease and disaster. We concentrate on ourselves, on our own needs and wants. We don't intend to neglect the less fortunate. We just do!
Today, Jesus calls us to wake up, to eliminate the chasm of indifference we build up within ourselves. Jesus calls us to soften our hearts, to think beyond ourselves, to remember that ALL God's people are created in God's image and likeness. As a people, you and I are blest! So we need to share these blessings with others. Respond as generously as you can to the real needs of the less fortunate who cross our path in life. If we bridge that chasm, we are eternally blest!