HARDENING of the HEARTERIESa reflection on Luke 16:19-31 (gospel, 9-29-2013)
- by Deacon Paul Rooney
Lazarus and the rich man has always been a sad gospel story for me (Luke 16:19-31). My heart cries out for those who walk a path that leads away from eternal life, rather than toward eternity with God. Some hearts are very hardened, especially on the dignity of life issues; other hearts just seem to pick and choose from Holy Scripture whatever fits their chosen lifestyle, and ignore the rest of the revealed truth that points to their sinfulness. Still others look the other way rather than meet the eyes of the beggar holding a sign on the corner. Under these circumstances, all we can do as Christians is try to set a good example by clinging to and living the truth revealed by Jesus our Savior, and intercede for those who suffer (without knowing it) from hardening of the hearteries.
The focus of this gospel story is on the ease with which riches can harden one's heart, if we are not aware of and avoid that consequence. Jesus spoke elsewhere of the camel unable to go through the eye of the needle, because he knew from simple observation the way some hearts lust after money and the vices that follow its pursuit. The rich man must have been aware of poor Lazarus sitting outside his gate, since he passed Lazarus every day when he entered or left his estate. Also, he recognized him in the after-life and even called him by name. What hurts the most about this gospel story is the gross indifference of someone who is able to help. Such indifference leads immediately to a deadly blindness about the harm they are causing others not through acts of commission, but through acts of omission.
It is a good time and opportunity to check upon our own compassion. The poor are all around us, and Jesus tells us that they will always be with us. So how is that observable fact affecting your choices? The drama of hunger in the world calls Christians to exercise responsibility toward their brethren, both in their personal behavior and in their solidarity with the human family (Catechism #2831).
Let me share a true personal story with you. My granddaughter went to the Social Services office a couple of weeks ago to see if she could get some assistance for their newborn daughter. While they were there, a homeless man in the waiting room recognized her. Apparently, not too long ago, he was holding a sign on a corner of a busy street which said "homeless - please help." My granddaughter thought to herself that she would begin to pray for him. Then she thought, prayer won't fill his tummy right now! So she went home, made him several peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, added a couple of Snickers bars and a bottle of water; drove back to where he was, and gave the lunch to him. At that time, he was really touched by my granddaughter's kind gesture, and he told her so.
Fast forward to yesterday. He recognized her in the waiting room. He stopped her and told her that he thought it was really special what she did when she brought him sandwiches; but now, to see that she was in need herself, well, it made her gesture all the more meaningful, he said.
My granddaughter had met her Lazarus, and had responded to the gospel's ethical demand to love one's neighbor. "By their fruits you shall know them." Who is your Lazarus?
- Deacon Paul Rooney
Lazarus at the gate: http://www.rapturechrist.com/laz.htm;
Peanut Butter-Jelly: http://www.bbb.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/1.png;
Hardened heart: http://www.barbdahlgren.com/wp-content/uploads/Hardened-Heart.png