Gospel Reflection for the 26th Sunday Ordinary Time Year C – September 29th 2013
Full scripture for this Sunday is available on the Catholic Ireland website. Daily Scripture is also available. Our parish Prayers of the Faithful for this Sunday are made available on the Dublin Diocesan website.
Jesus said to the Pharisees: ‘There was a rich man who used to dress in purple and fine linen and feast magnificently every day. And at his gate there lay a poor man called Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to fill himself with the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even came and licked his sores. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried.
‘In his torment in Hades he looked up and saw Abraham a long way off with Lazarus in his bosom. So he cried out, “Father Abraham, pity me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in agony in these flames”. “My son,” Abraham replied “remember that during your life good things came your way, just as bad things came the way of Lazarus. Now he is being comforted here while you are in agony. But that is not all: between us and you a great gulf has been fixed, to stop anyone, if he wanted to, crossing from our side to yours, and to stop any crossing from your side to ours.”
‘The rich man replied, “Father, I beg you then to send Lazarus to my father’s house, since I have five brothers, to give them warning so that they do not come to this place of torment too”. “They have Moses and the prophets,” said Abraham “let them listen to them.”. “Ah no, father Abraham,” said the rich man “but if someone comes to them from the dead, they will repent.” Then Abraham said to him, “If they will not listen either to Moses or to the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead”.’
Today’s gospel is a story about lack of compassion and what this can lead to. Hardness of heart, maybe out of fear or religiosity, deprives others of the right to food. Dogs, who in Jesus’ time, were the most unclean of animals, showed more compassion to the poor man, by soothing his wounds, licking his sores.
The Way of Jesus
Compassion is the way of Jesus, the way of suffering actively with others and trying to do something for them when we can.
If we can wince at the pain of hunger, homelessness, isolation and loneliness, we may do something about them. If the hardships of others really touch us so that we can feel the pain of another, then our feelings to want to help will come into real activity.
We know of the huge inequality of the world. We think of the millions in slave labour, eking out a living to make clothes for the western world. We can be as near and as distant from them as from any of the images on our TV screen.
Human Yearning for Compassion
The hearts of many plead for compassion just as the heart of the poor man yearned for the human touch of food; and the heart of the rich man yearned for mercy in the torment of Hades.
Watching Jesus in the gospel is a way of growing in compassion. He seems to go out naturally to people, and is in our heart knocking to get out, so that we can go with him to those in need. We have the gift of Jesus, not for ourselves, but for others.
‘Who needs my help today?’ was a daily question of St Ignatius Loyola. Isn’t it good to ask that each day and allow the Lord lead us to where we may help another in need?
Lord Jesus may your kingdom come among the poorest of people and places in the world.
Donal Neary SJ