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26th Sunday in Ordinary Time - September 25, 2016

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By Deacon Jeff Mevissen

In the story of Lazarus, the rich man is painfully aware of the chasm or void between himself and Lazarus because no one may cross the void to relieve his torment in the after-life.  In life, however, it was Lazarus who was painfully aware of the void between himself and the rich man because he could not cross the threshold of the rich man to eat the scraps of food he longed for.  This story is a wake up call to recognize the voids between ourselves and others before it is too late.

It is human nature to make divisions between people and enrich ourselves at the expense of others.  How easy it would have been for the rich man to share his table scraps with Lazarus! It only required the rich man to see Lazarus and to have compassion for him.  Jesus calls us to see others with the eyes of compassion that we may close the gaps that exist between us.

Catholic social teaching also calls us the close the gaps that exist between the rich and poor in this country.  A good example is the 1986 pastoral letter by U.S. bishops: Economic Justice for All.  Some believe bishops should save souls and avoid social commentary.  The bishops, however speak with a prophetic voice because of the power of the Holy Spirit they received at confirmation and ordination.  God loves His people and raises up prophets to speak on behalf of the poor and vulnerable who have no other voice.  The bishops speak on behalf of Jesus who was anointed to bring glad tidings to the poor.  The bishops speak in the spirit of the Magnificat where Mary proclaims that God casts the mighty from their thrones but lifts up the lowly; that God fills the hungry with good things but sends the rich away empty.


Here are a few points from Catholic social teaching:

Every economic decision and institution should protect the dignity of the human person.  We believe human beings are made in the image and likeness of God.  Mother Teresa inspires us because she promoted the dignity of the poorest of the poor in Calcutta.  The economy should serve people, not the other way around.  A bottom line that does not account for the people it affects is not the true bottom line.

All people have a right and obligation to participate in the economic life of society.  Justice demands that people be assured a minimum level of participation in the economy. Such participation has special significance in our tradition because we believe that it is a means by which we join in carrying forward God's creative activity.  Work is more than earning a paycheck – it is a way of contributing to the common good of society.  When we assign chores to our children it is often more difficult to supervise the chores than to do them.  Still, household chores instill a sense of contributing to the family.  In the same way, economies should be structured that all may contribute.

A society is judged by its treatment of the poor and vulnerable.  Through salvation history, God has favored the poor.  When God chose Israel to be his special people they were Hebrew slaves in Egypt.  Then God chose David to be the King of Israel he was the youngest son of Jesse out tending the sheep.  When God chose Mary to be the Mother of his son she was a humble maiden in a humble town named Nazareth.  Jesus teaches in Matthew 25: “what you do for the least of my brothers and sisters you do for me.”


What does it take to close the gaps between ourselves and others except a little imagination and courage.  In Kansas, Black Lives Matter planned a protest in Wichita.  After dialog with the Wichita police, however, the protest was canceled and a picnic was scheduled.  Over hot dogs and hamburgers a conversation was started how to improve relations between the community and police.  Children were dancing with officers instead of running for fear of them.  My dear brothers and sisters – human natures tends to divide people – God's Kingdom tends to unite people.