September 25, 2022, Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Amos 6:1a, 4-7 1 Timothy 6:11-16 Luke 16:19-31
Today's gospel offers us two very different characters: the “rich" man, who is never given a name in the scripture, and Lazarus, the poor man. We don't know much about the rich man except that he was apparently living very comfortably, eating well and oblivious to the poor sick man with open sores lying at his own gate.
They both die and the rich man goes to the netherworld, while Lazarus goes to the bosom of Abraham. In torment, the rich man calls out for the assistance of Lazarus. I imagine Lazarus thinking, "Oh, so now you know my name!“ The rich man has an errand for Lazarus: slake his own thirst with water or, at least, take a warning to his remaining relatives! Apparently, it's still all about him! We are not told the rich man was a mean or violent person in this life. He was simply unaware of the needs beyond his own gate, beyond himself.
One of the principles of Catholic social teaching is solidarity, the awareness and appreciation of our common humanity, and a commitment to our common good. It grows out of the first principle of Catholic social teaching, the dignity of life. If all lives have dignity then we must be aware of all of the forces that cause others to suffer and how they are all connected. The principle of solidarity requires us to pay attention, to notice the suffering of our brothers and sisters. And having noticed, to do whatever we can to promote the common good.
How much anger and political unrest is caused by human suffering and by the perception that those of us whose needs are met are unaware or uncaring of those whose needs are not.
We are obliged by the gospel to do what we can to alleviate the suffering of others, to see their pain as our own. Catholic social teaching walks on two feet: justice and charity. There are immediate needs to which we can respond with charity: a hot meal for someone who is hungry, baby formula for the poor young mother, financial support to a worthy cause.
Equally important are works of justice, work aimed to correct the causes of suffering. Poverty, prejudice and climate change pose problems that require corporate solutions, working together with others who are committed to a just and equal society.
We cannot do everything., but we are called to commit ourselves to each other. The rich man was not obligated to eradicate poverty and hunger. He was however obliged to notice the suffering of Lazarus and to do whatever was in his power to alleviate it.
And so it is with us.
by: Pat Schnee