This Gospel is pretty clear in what it tells us about
God’s expectations about how we respond to the needs
of those who are poor and suffering.
The question of how we care for the poorest and neediest –
for all the Lazaruses around us – has a pretty wide application.
Our parish St. Vincent de Paul group
is sponsoring a food drive, for example. Obvious application.
And in terms of those who are poor and abandoned,
how can anyone with a conscience
not see how this applies in the case of legal abortion?
Of course I mean the unborn child,
who is completely abandoned.
So many treat the unborn child
the way the rich man treated Lazarus –
as if he didn’t even exist.
But I also mean the women and others involved.
Last week, I attended an annual luncheon
to benefit the Elizabeth New Life Center, in Sidney,
and heard the stories of those women
who are so often exploited by the abortion industry.
It’s a cruel joke to use the term “choice,”
because so often, women and girls are pressured,
and threatened, and manipulated, into getting abortions.
Thank God for the work the New Life Center,
and other crisis pregnancy centers nationwide,
do to help women make the choice for life,
and then support those women along the way!
This ministry is the exact opposite of what the Gospel describes.
They are seeking out all the Lazaruses as they can,
and binding up their wounds, and getting them back on their feet.
But let me offer another application. Let’s talk about immigration.
This is a big subject,
and I’m not going to get into the details of public policy.
Rather, I just want to raise the question
of how this passage applies to this situation.
The bishops have said, repeatedly,
that it’s absolutely legitimate for countries
to control their borders and for people to obey the law.
But what’s also important is to have compassion
and to respect every person’s dignity,
including people who are illegal immigrants, who have broken the law.
So, for example, the bishops have pointed out
how much of this problem is driven by poverty,
and that is the root cause that needs to be addressed.
And they’ve pointed out that as legitimate
as the goal of controlling our borders is,
nonetheless, sometimes the remedies can be cruel –
breaking up families, for example – and excessive.
For example, one proposal has been to make any kind of assistance
to illegal immigrants a crime, even providing food and shelter.
You and I as citizens have a voice;
as Catholics, our duty is to raise our voice for all the Lazaruses:
the unborn, the unwelcome, those trapped in poverty,
and all those we might rather forget about.
In the prayer I offered near the beginning of Mass, we heard:
“O God, who manifest your almighty power
above all by pardoning and showing mercy,
bestow, we pray, your grace abundantly upon us
and make those hastening to attain your promises
heirs to the treasures of heaven.”
Notice that: God wants to give us the “treasures of heaven” –
it is for that reason that he pardons us and shows us mercy,
and pours his grace -- his power to transform us –
“abundantly upon us.” So far, so good.
But, here’s the “but”:
God sees how generous you and I are – or are not.
He sees whether we go out of our way to bring others
to share in his treasures.
And if we don’t, we will share the fate of the rich man in the Gospel,
who is not waiting to enter into life,
but is waiting to enter into hell.
The good news is, it’s not hard. If you want mercy, show mercy.
Especially to the poorest.