|26th Sunday in Ordinary time, 25 Sep 2016|
From the Dean’s Desk
The Gospel for today [Luke 16: 19-31] presents us with a second parable dealing with wealth and riches. Last week we read the Gospel that dealt with the wasteful steward [Luke 16:1-13], with the challenge from Jesus that we cannot serve two masters. We need to either serve God or money. This parable urges us to be astute with the elements of God, rather than money and worldly items. Luke tells us in that parable that the steward was shrewd enough to use money in order to win him some friends after he was dismissed from his position. He had asked his master’s debtors to write off the amount they owed him (the steward) so that he may be accepted by the people when he was eventually dismissed from service. He used his own money and wealth in order to better his position among his peers.
In today’s Gospel we have the parable of two individuals: Dives (the Latin for ‘rich’), the rich and wealthy man who feasted sumptuously every day and Lazarus, who lived outside the rich man’s gate and wished he could feed himself with the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Their deaths become the turning point of the story – taking up the theme of reversal so prevalent in Luke’s Gospel. Lazarus finds himself in the presence of Abraham, an indication that he has been rewarded and is now in heaven, while the rich man finds himself in Hades. Between them there is a great chasm, just as in life the gate of the rich man formed a chasm between them. In life, none of them excelled in vice or virtue. Lazarus was not particularly virtuous because of his extreme poverty, just as the rich man was not evil because of his excessive wealth. The sin of the rich man is that he lived his life of complacency and indifference to the needs of those around him - not noticing the existence of Lazarus at his very front gate. His non-action and non-concern for the plight of Lazarus was his downfall.
It is fitting that we have this Gospel parable today as we celebrate Social Justice Sunday. The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has released their statement this year entitled: ‘A Place at the Table: Social Justice in an Ageing Society’. It looks at some practical ways in which we can become aware of and celebrate the contributions that older people have made to our society. It calls us to go beyond a recognition of people simply based on what they can produce and contribute economically. It calls us to value people for their worth, irrespective of their age. It challenges us to not see the elderly as burdensome and valueless. In light of the celebration of this extraordinary Year of Mercy, it calls us to continue to build communities based on equality, justice, mercy and love. We are called to minster in a real way to the elderly, so that not one of them is considered a burden to society or community, and not to be complacent about their presence in our lives.
The Australian Bishops statement together with today’s Gospel parable urge us to consider the needs of those less fortunate that ourselves, especially those suffering the pains of ageing. Our non-involvement and non-action in this matter places us in the same mould as the rich man in today’s parable. Complacency and inaction with regard to the aged and elderly around us can amount to a personal and social sin. Let us take some time to consider how we can become aware of the needs of these people in our community and how we can address those needs.
Fr Robert Bossini