The rich man and Lazarus
Luke 16: 19-31
When Pope John Paul II visited the US in 1979, he addressed these words to the people of the US at Yankee Stadium on October 2:
The poor of the United States and of the world are your brothers and sisters in Christ. You must never be content to leave them just the crumbs from the feast. You must take of your substance and not just of your abundance in order to help them. And you must treat them like guests at your family table.
Monseñor Oscar Romero, stated the importance of how we treat the poor, in his February 5, 1978 homily:
The guarantee of one’s prayer
is not in saying a lot of words.
The guarantee of one’s petition is very easy to know:
how do I treat the poor?
The degree to which you approach them,
and the love with which you approach them,
or the scorn with which you approach them –
that is how you approach your God.
What you do to them, you do to God.
The way you look at them is the way you look at God.
It is fitting that this year the parable of the rich man and Lazarus is the lectionary reading for March 24, the anniversary of the martyrdom of Archbishop Oscar Romero in San Salvador, El Salvador, in 1980. Though he had many connections with the rich and powerful, he accompanied the poor and took up their cause as his own, often speaking of the violations of their rights in his Sunday homilies. “The voice of the voiceless,” he was killed by those who thought they could silence him, but his memory lives in Latin America and the world.
On April 1, 1979, he preached these words, which I’d like read at my funeral Mass.
Those who, in the biblical phrase, would save their lives — that is, those who don’t want to get into problems, who want to stay outside whatever demands our involvement – they will lose their lives.
What a terrible things to have lived well off, with no suffering, not getting into problems, quite tranquil, quite settled, with good connections — politically, economically, socially — lacking nothing.
To what good? They will lose their lives.
‘But those who for love of me uproot themselves and accompany the people and go with the poor in their suffering and become incarnate and feel as their own the pain and the abuse – they will secure their lives, because my Father will reward them.’
To each one of us Christ is saying: ‘If you want your life and mission to be fruitful like mine, do like me. Be converted into a seed that lets itself be buried. Let yourself be killed. Do not be afraid. Those who shun suffering will remain alone. No one is more alone than the selfish. But if you give your life out of love for others, as I give mine for all, you will reap a great harvest. You will have the deepest satisfactions. Do not fear death or threats. The Lord goes with you.’