President John F. Kennedy and his father Joseph were once proudly watching JFK's daughter Caroline at play. As they sat side-by-side on comfortable lawn chairs, no words passed between the two men for quite some time. Finally, the elder Kennedy said, "Caroline's very bright, Jack.” Then, after a pause, he added, "Smarter than you were at that age.” The president adopted a similar thoughtful demeanor and, without looking over at his dad, said, "Yes, she is.” Then, after a pause of his own, he added: “But, look, who she has for a father.”
That story is not just about a father, a son, and a daughter. That story is about a relationship. It is about being someone and having someone.
Just like the parable that Jesus told about a man named Lazarus and an anonymous rich man.
Lazarus was not just in need of bread for his hunger. He was not just in need of water to quench his thirst. He was not just in need of a roof for a shelter. He was basically in need of attention.
The rich man knew Lazarus by name and yet he did not pay any attention to him during their lifetime. Lazarus persistently challenged the rich man to notice him and his shabby and poor appearance. He was daily in his courtyard. He was there most of the time. And yet, the rich man was complacent. He was complacent with what he already had. He was complacent with the life he would have next.
How many of us ignore the need for attention that people around us show? If we only open our eyes to the needs of those within our own families, our offices and workplaces, our community, then the chasm that divided us could be bridged. How many of us see their needs, but never look? How many of us talk about their needs, but never speak to them about what they really need? How many of us had been complacent?
The rich man did not learn his lesson even when he was already in Hell. He thought he would always be in control. He thought he would always be in charge and calling the shots.
He was wrong.
How dare he ordered Abraham to ask Lazarus to dip his finger in water for his thirst to be quenched! How dare he ordered Abraham to warn his five other brothers! How dare he thought that his misery was a lesson for those of us who listened or are listening right now! How dare would he think that we will forget this lesson even though we already know and believe about Jesus of Nazareth, who rose from the dead.
The rich man did not hurt or harm Lazarus. He did not tell Lazarus to get off his property. He did nothing wrong to him. But that is precisely what he missed. The rich man did nothing good for Lazarus.
Sin does not only consist in committing bad things. It also consists in omitting, in not doing good or better things.
Now, what does this parable have to do with us who are barely making our mortgage and car payments and paying our credit card debts? We do not consider ourselves rich, nor do we consider ourselves poor.
This parable is not between having something and being nothing. It is about being someone and having someone.
We may be poor but we may also be rich. If you have a good education, if you have already acquired good taste, if you feel refined in your manners, then your richness could help the poverty of those who are slow mentally and intellectually, those who are rough in their manners and crude in the way they talk. They may be the Lazarus at your door.
We are poor and we are also rich. If you are rich emotionally, if you are surrounded by people who love you and whom you love, if you come from a happy family, then be someone to those who had been poor emotionally, those who have nobody to care for them, those who came from broken homes, from broken families. They may be the Lazarus at your door.
We can be poor but we can also be rich. If you are rich physically, if you have health, if you have been graced with a longer life, then be someone to those who had been physically poor, the sick, the terminally ill, the weak, those with cancer. They may be the Lazarus at your door.
The storyteller was and is the lesson. Jesus was the storyteller. Jesus is the lesson.
He is telling us that we need to care for each other. He is telling us that we need to open our eyes and our hearts to those persons we had been ignoring and taking for granted. He is asking us not to be complacent.
Complacency kills. Complacency divides. Complacency in life can lead us to hell.
29 September 2013