Thursday, March 04, 2010

Lazarus and Dives

During Lent, the lectionary goes out of its way to give us matched sets of Mass readings. The first reading Jeremiah's take on Psalm 1 about the difference between the person (blessed) who trusts in the Lord and the person (cursed) who trusts in "flesh." The Gospel restates the same theme in very concrete terms in Jesus' parable about the beggar and the rich man. An odd thing, something that heightens the whole sense of blessing and curse, is that while the beggar has a name (Lazarus), the rich man doesn't. It is as if his whole character, his whole personality, his whole human essence was reduced, or maybe limited, to his luxurious life. Outside of that, he didn't even have a life. So when he dies, he is just "buried", whereas when Lazarus (the beggar) dies, "he was carried by angels to the bosom of Abraham."
Here in Chicago we don't yet have a beggar outside of every door, but we do have one outside of just about every Walgreens, 7-11 and Starbucks downtown. In community, we were discussing our personal responses to this situation, when on our way to Mass, we easily hear anywhere from seven to ten different requests for spare change. All we usually have to give is a greeting and an acknowledgment of the person's human dignity. And, in many cases, their name.
Are there "regulars" shaking a paper cup in your neighborhood? Do you know any of their names?

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