Reflection on the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
When I first read this parable I thought “Jesus, this parable is a perfect fit for today’s world!” Let’s take a look at the actors in the parable and at their parallel in our imagination. The rich man: Amos would describe him as lying on his ivory couch, eating lamb and veal and drinking from his bowl of wine. That description might fit Elan Musk, who is the richest person in the world with only $260 billion dollars to live on. What does he do with all that money? It reminds me of a recent Gospel describing the rich man with so much grain that he was about to build barns to store it in for his old age. In all fairness, I don’t really know what Elan Musk does with all that money but it seems a bit excessive. Right behind him is the Arnold Family who have $153 billion to play with, and then the CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, third richest person in the world with $132 billion. These are the rich man from today’s parable. They are part of the top 10 percent of the world’s population who control the money.
Not all rich people hang on to their money so tightly. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are prime examples, and they have used their influence to ask others to give to good causes as well.
Now let’s look at Lazarus. Lazarus is part of the 10.9 percent of the world’s population who live in abject poverty – some 35 million people. Here are just a couple of examples: in South Sudan, 99 percent of the population lives on less than $10 a day. Right here in Kentucky, 16.6 percent of the population in 2020 live below the poverty level, which for a family of four is $25, 465 per year and for a parent and one child is $17,306 per year.
Do these examples fit today’s parable? I think so. It leaves us feeling helpless. What can we do? We can’t change the situation. But here is a different twist to the story. There exists in today’s world a whole other group of people who live by Gospel values, either knowingly or unknowingly. In the recent flooding in eastern Kentucky, the National Guard was called out to help people put their lives back together. As it happened, 35 of those National Guard people had to leave their own families to cope with damage to their own homes. Another group of people came together, having learned of this situation, and raised money to help those 35 families. So we have good people helping good people who are helping good people.
When the governor of Florida recently sent a plane load of Venezuelan immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard unannounced, the people immediately rallied around them, scrambling to find food and housing for them. When the immigrants were transferred the next day to a nearby army base, there were hugs all around as they boarded the bus. The Venezuelans obviously felt welcomed and grateful to their hosts for what had been done for them.
Last weekend, Louisville hosted a group of LGBTQ people who had not been able to gather together for two years because of the pandemic. There was a large welcome sign and people from all walks of life showed up to show their support.
I think these are true Gospel values being lived out in everyday life. We are in the midst of a huge cultural shift. This is something that seems to happen about every 500 years in the history of the world. The Roman empire under Charlemagne changed the whole direction of Christianity. The Industrial Revolution changed people’s way of living and earning a living. Our cultural revolution involves a whole range of issues from technology to racism to climate change to the haves vs. the have nots. In our own lifetimes we have seen huge changes. The world seems in turmoil, and it is. But through it all, there are faithful people helping others, sharing generously, welcoming the stranger. There is hope. Our call is to join in and support the goodness all around us.