In one of his letters to the church Pope Francis challenged all of us to own up to what he called the globalization of indifference. He wrote “Usually, when we are healthy and comfortable, we forget about others, we are unconcerned with their problems, their sufferings and the injustices they endure… Our heart grows cold,”
“As long as I am relatively healthy and comfortable, I don’t think about those less well off. Today, this selfish attitude of indifference has taken on global proportions, to the extent that we can speak of a globalization of indifference. It is a problem which we, as Christians, need to confront.”
The rich man in today’s gospel was not a bad or evil man. You’ll notice he didn’t set the dogs on Lazarus, didn’t tell him to get off his property. He didn’t kick him as he stepped over him as he went to enjoy his sumptuous meal. This man was just indifferent to Lazarus and his needs.
In the time of Jesus if you were rich and well off you were considered to have been blessed by God. If were not well off, if you were destitute, well that was your lot in life. The Law and the Prophets taught that people who were well off had an obligation to those who were poor. As we know from our first reading from the prophet Amos this didn’t always happen. The people who well off were too caught up in their own selfish lifestyles to have a care for those in need.
They were just indifferent to the needs of the poor, those not so well blessed. Their indifference caused them to lose sight of the Golden Rule, ‘do unto others and you would have others do unto you,’ Pope Francis sees today’s indifference in the fact that the rich are upset when the stock market drops three points but have no concern for an unemployed street person dies of hunger or the cold. Such a person is not on their radar.
In Christ’s parable both men die as we all will. The man blessed with good things during his lifetime ends up in hell. Lazarus, who had nothing but grief during his life time ends up in the company of Abraham. A great chasm separates them. The chasm is of their own making. Notice that the rich man is talking to Abraham, not to the poor man; and he is asking Abraham to command the poor man to go fetch him water to ease his thirst. He just doesn’t get. He brought all this pain on himself. The wealthy of the world, trapped in global indifference, refuse to listen to the revelations of God, the teaching of Jesus, the social teachings of the church are creating their own chasm. Wealth and privilege have a way of creating this unbridgeable gap. They just do not need God. They certainly do not need the poor. They are self-sufficient.
And we, living in this Judeo-Christian nation, who have read Moses’ law, who have heard the prophets, and received the good news of Jesus—what might this parable say to us? Have we created an abyss between ourselves and the Lazarus’s of our day? Are we plagued by this globalization of indifference? Are we weary of hearing about the millions of refugees, weary of seeing TV coverage of children who are the innocent victims of war?
Do we not close our minds to anything that challenges our way of life?
Maybe some of us do. Maybe some of us are caught up in global indifference, recently Pope Francis called this indifference a modern illness. But on the whole you are a good and generous people. All through the years you’ve have been more than generous when you’ve been asked to help people less blessed than yourselves. You’ve always supported Share Life, our Christmas and Thanksgiving food drives, and think of the families you’ve given new hope and new lives as you’ve supported our refugee appeals.
There is the Psalm that sings, ‘The lord hears the cry of the poor’. You good people have a long history of hearing the cry of the poor. May God bless our parish family for our long history of hearing and answering the cry of the poor.