Lazarus at Our Gate

by Ben Cheng
Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Amos 6:1A, 4-7

1 Timothy 6:11-16

Luke 16:19-31

Through this Sunday's readings, especially the gospel reading on “Lazarus at the gate”, the Church reminds us the importance of one of its social teachings: Our religious conviction can be measured by the way we treat those who are most immediately and concretely in need. Let us open our hearts to reflect on this teaching.

Why does the Church challenge us to observe well this teaching? What are her concerns? Its main concern is capitalism which can easily degenerate into individualism. Profit-making and competitions are the only goals for capitalism. Individualism overlooks the fact that we are all organically related to one another. When we are caught in this form of self-absorption, we are like those complacent riches in the book of Amos who "now go into captivity." (Amos 6:7) Ultimately, this leads us to our own collapse! The Gospel reading has a similar message: The rich man caved in on himself by his wealth and then when he died he found himself in another world where he was "in torment" (Luke 16:23). We can think of the rich man’s difficult experience after death as a torment that begins even now, in which the suffering is coming from this isolation. When we lock ourselves into a narrow space of ego, we run counter to our own nature, and we suffer as a result. The truth is we are meant to be connected to one another precisely through God. The more we are in touch with God, the more we are in touch with everyone that God loves, and the deeper our connection to the world which draws us into the creator.

So, what should be our right attitude? Let us tap into some of the Church’s wisdom:

"If you have two shirts in your closet, one belongs to you and the other to the man with no shirt." – St. Ambrose of Milan

"Once the demands of necessity and propriety have been met, the rest that one owns belongs to the poor." – Pope Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum , n.13-14

"We have a right to ownership of private property, but, in regard to the use of it, the common good must always be paramount." – St. Thomas Aquinas , Summa Theologica, II-II q.66, a.2

"You must serve Christ in his most distressing disguise in the poor." – Mother Teresa

"Everything we do every day should be directly or indirectly related to the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy." – Dorothy Day, co-founder of The Catholic Worker

"We got to shift from being a society of go-getters, to being a society of go-givers" – Peter Maurin, co-founder of The Catholic Worker, Easy Essays, Book 3

Let's remember our life is not about us. We need to live in the context of a far greater spiritual horizon. We are permitted to be the stewards of creation, but the purpose of that stewardship is to cooperate with God to do His will, to fulfill His purposes. So, let us ask ourselves, "Why does God permit me to have this wealth? What does God want me to do with this money? How can my wealth be used to serve God's purposes?" Our goal should be to give, and give. It is what generosity is about. I would recommend a number of audio clips by Fr. Francis Ching on this topic. Let us start to think about some of the concrete ways we can help the poor, Lazarus at our gate.

This is an excerpt from Bishop Robert Barron’s homilies, including “Rich Man, Poor Man”, “The Poor At Our Gate”, “Amos's Challenge”, and “Lazarus and the Rich Man”. For more information, please visit Word On Fire.