26 TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, C PLEASE MIND THE GAP

“There was a rich man … And his gate there laid a poor man named

Lazarus” (Luke 16: 19, 20).

A regular traveller on London trains and subways would be very familiar with this
warning blaring from the speakers repeatedly: Please mind the gap between the
train and the platform … Please mind the gap! Today the Readings are sounding a
similar warning to us all; but this time, it not about the train and the platform. It is
about us and our relationships with the less privileged. Prophet Amos, the
Psalmist and Jesus are saying to us: Please mind the gap between the rich and the
poor … please mind the gap!
Prophet Amos bares out the angst of God against the rich in the society of his
time. In today’s First Reading (Amos 6: 1, 4-7), he is not simply speaking out
against the rich in general but the obscenely rich who lying on “ivory beds” and
sprawling on their divans … drink wine by the bowlful, and use the finest oil to
anoint themselves” but do not care about the “ruins of Joseph.” This description
by Amos in some ways replicates the description of the rich man in Jesus’ parable
in the Gospel of today (Luke 16: 19-31), who used to “dress in purple and fine
linen and feast magnificently every day.” Like the rich men in the time of the
prophet, the rich man in Jesus’ parable “did not care about the ruins of Joseph”
personified in Lazarus, the poor man who laid at his gate.
This parable, found only in the Gospel of Luke, is wrapped in pitiable contrasting
images of the rich ignoring the presence of the poor; the poor inflicted in such
poverty that his state is less than human – that he laid at the gate of the rich man
means he was homeless; that he was covered with sores reflects both his
unhygienic and impoverished state; that he longed for the scraps from the rich
man’s table indicates his famished condition; and that dogs came and licked his
sore sadly points to his powerlessness and helplessness. Does this remind us of
any concrete images around us? That the sad reality painted by Jesus in the
parable more than 2000 years ago are very palpable in today’s realities point to
the facts humanity has not changed and that “The Word of God is alive and
active” (Hebrews 4: 12).

The world we live in is deeply divided along economic and social lines that sets
the rich so far apart from the poor. As the popular parlance says: “The rich are
getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.” The rich today still sprawl in their
palaces and estates while the poor remains crawling outside their gates, seen but
unnoticed. The structures of modern world dehumanise the poor and condemn
him to irreversible conditions by stifling all possible avenues of meaningful
livelihood: without education, without work, without commensurable salaries,
without decent housing, without health care and without possibilities. Thus, as
the global population increases, the number of the poor increases even more. The
insatiable attitude of the rich has deadened their sensibilities to the deprivations
of the less privileged; they can no longer hear the cries and the wailings of the
poor Lazaruses at their gates begging for crumbs. They, like the rich man in our
parable, have failed to recognise that the poor man at the gate is a symbol of
Jesus, “the least of our brothers”, Who will be bruised, derided, tortured,
abandoned, famished, thirsty, beaten and crucified and left to die at the outskirts
of the city of Jerusalem. And so they too do not care, they simply do nothing
about the concerns of the poor. Apathy and indifference have become the sins of
our generation as they were the sins of the rich man in our parable. The words of
Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium (54) cannot be neglected because its stark
realism:
“Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of
feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other
people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this
were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of
prosperity deadens us ... In the meantime, all those lives stunted for
lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.”
The life and the living condition of Lazarus definitely failed to move the rich man
in our parable. But are we moved when we see the “new Lazaruses” on our
streets, highways, high streets, in the parks and public places? Do we even notice
them? Do we spare a minute, a look of care, a word of kindness to these men and
women on the fringes of our society?
The rich man created a social chasm between himself and Lazarus while here on
earth. He lived in his own world of sprawling affluence and bowlful

squandermania while Lazarus barely survived in his own world of famished
squalor and abject deprivations. There was no interaction, no interference, no
sharing of anything whatsoever. These were within his power to provide but he
simply did not bother, as sometimes we do not bother to create the necessary
conditions to close the gaps. Do we realise that when we create these chasms
against the poor here on earth, we are invariably preparing for ourselves the
bottomless chasm, not made by human hands, impossible to cross that exists in
eternity? It was too late when the rich man realised this. Do we want to wait that
long?
We are the brothers and sisters of the rich man, who have Moses and the
prophets to listen to, and change. Our Lord Jesus Christ, the real Lazarus, has
Risen from the dead and has come to warn us to “Mind the gap” so that we too
do not come to this place of torment too (Luke 16: 28).