September 25, 2016
by Maureen McCann Waldron
click here for photo and information about the writer

Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 138

Amos 6:1a, 4-7
Psalms 146:7, 8-9, 9-10
1 Timothy 6:11-16
Luke 16:19-31

Praying Ordinary Time

“Woe to the complacent…”
Amos 6:1

Today’s first reading from the prophet Amos warns us not to be too satisfied with ourselves about our place in the world – especially if we forget to notice other people around us.  He describes people living in luxury, eating and drinking the best of everything, thinking only of themselves.  Amos concludes, “They shall be the first to go into exile.”

The reading ties in so well with Luke’s Gospel of the Rich Man and Lazarus.   In this parable, Jesus tells of a nameless Rich Man who lived a life of excess. He didn’t just eat well, he “dined sumptuously each day.”  Yet literally at his doorstep was Lazarus, a starving man who longed for the scraps that fell from the Rich Man’s table.  But as the Rich Man walked past him every day coming and going to his house, it never occurred to him to help the fellow human sprawled in front of him.

When the Rich Man died and was sent to the netherworld, he suddenly noticed Lazarus being cherished in heaven.  Even from his misery in flames, the Rich Man saw Lazarus only as a servant to bring him water.  His request for water was declined as Abraham told him “between us and you [is} a great chasm.”

Perhaps that chasm was a creation of the Rich Man, who in his life saw an insurmountable breach between himself and the poor.  He didn’t recognize Lazarus as being worthy of his attention or generosity.  He could not bridge the gap that connected him to Lazarus as a brother. 

Greg Boyle, S.J., who has worked with gang members in Los Angeles for many years encourages us to step over the abyss and stand skin to skin next to each other.  He says no daylight should separate us, “only kinship – inching ourselves closer to creating a community of kinship such that God might recognize it.”

It is that kinship that Jesus is inviting us into.  Our world is too divided and often we isolate ourselves into Us and Them.   Fr. Boyle’s kinship eliminates the divisions between us.  We are challenged to see Jesus in each other and to recognize the sacred humanity that we share with every other person.

I once heard a speaker suggest that we regard each other with the phrase “one of us.”  Like Greg Boyle’s kinship, it eliminates the categories in which I so often place people.  In the weeks after hearing the speaker, I found myself reading or listening to the news differently and taking part in discussions in a different way:

One of us was shot on the streets last night.  One of us did the shooting.
One of us had our life changed by terrorism.
Many of us were killed. 
A political candidate I strongly disagree with, is as beloved by God as I am.  One of us.

Today’s readings invite me to look at the chasms I create in my own life, the false boundaries between Us and Them.  Where do I fail to reach out to those who need me because of my own protectiveness of my time, my money or simply my own fears?  Are there people in my own life or maybe beyond my daily life that I am being asked to tend to, to feed or to forgive?

On this 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, we are summoned to close the artificial gap between Us and Them, between our own comfortable lives, and the sisters and brothers who need us – the ones we don’t always see in pain on our own doorstep.

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