I often hear people say, “If God wants me to believe in him, why doesn’t he just reveal himself? Why doesn’t he just appear to us?” My answer, “He did. It’s called Christmas. He was killed and rose from the dead. It’s called Easter.” But still they don’t believe. In our skeptical day and age, it seems that in order to believe, people want to see it for themselves. But Jesus tells Thomas, “Blessed are those who do not see and still believe.” No wonder that our Creed starts with “I Believe.” We stand and profess our faith in truths that have been revealed by God, but that I have not personally witnessed.
I believe in God. I believe in Jesus and the Holy Spirit. I believe in the catholic church, baptism, forgiveness, resurrection, and eternal life. Blessed are those who believe–is it us? If we do, the quality with which we live our lives should be distinct from those who do not believe–who are not believers. Believers have a different outlook, a certain optimism. We have a different attitude, a certain way of life that is different from those who do not believe in life everlasting. We should be visibly distinct in our generosity towards others and our love for others–even those with whom we disagree. We should have a concern for the poor, a heart for the lost souls who have gone far astray. We should want them to meet the healer, the reconciler, the redeemer, Jesus. Or are we complacent?
That’s what today’s readings are all about. The prophet Amos says, “Woe to the complacent!” He says you’re living comfortably, dining sumptuously, and have forgotten your God!” There’s going to be problems, Amos warns them! And conversely, St. Paul’s advice to Timothy, the man of God, is to, “pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. Compete well for the faith. Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called.” And therein lies the difference between the rich man in today’s Gospel and Lazarus, and why one was suffering torment in the flames and the other was with Abraham in heaven. The rich man had so many opportunities to love, and to show gentleness, mercy, and compassion–but he did not.
It wasn’t the rich man’s wealth and comfort that was the problem, it was his total disregard for the suffering of others. He had wealth and daily opportunities to bring comfort and ease the pain of those around him–but he did not. In life the rich man saw a great divide between himself and others. He made distinctions between who he was and what he had and was entirely unconcerned about poor Lazarus. And the divide that he saw in life between him and others, became an eternal reality. He created the separation that landed him in the fires of hell, by his attitude toward others on earth. God did not create the chasm that separated him–he did.
Even in death his attitude had not changed. He still wants to boss Lazarus around. He says, “Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue,” and “send him to my father’s house to warn my brothers.” Lazarus was not a person to the rich man–he was nothing more than a slave. Someone to do his bidding.
I see this problem lived out when people come into our school office and treat our office secretaries and school nurse like trash. I see it at restaurants and stores when customers disrespect and are rude and entitled when speaking to wait staff. I see it in the disrespect that is shown by students toward their teachers, and by parents who do the same. I see officers of the law abusing their power and I see a population that does not respect its officers. ‘Round and round we go until all of us are judging, pointing the finger, caring only for ourselves, looking out for number one without regard for others. Today’s gospel is a warning. We’re creating a divide. Someone did rise from the dead. Are we listening to what he has to teach us today? Will we repent while there’s still time?