What do you call a nervous dinosaur? A Nervous Rex.
What do you call a cow that twitches? Beef Jerky
It seems that every day there is a news story about physical violence somewhere. Shootings, bombings, wars, whatever. But there is another kind of violence that our gospel addresses today and that is the violence of poverty.
There are poor countries that we call “third world” countries, or the “developing” nations. Poverty in these countries means the lack of food, inadequate housing, the lack of basic medical care, the lack of education, even the lack of plumbing. Of course we need not go overseas to see poverty. In our own country we are aware of the many homeless, hungry, and unemployed.
Seeing both rich and poor all around, the Church today gives us the gospel story about the rich man and poor Lazarus. A little trivia… Did you know that it was this story that inspired Dickens to write A Christmas Carol? There we read about the three ghosts visiting Scrooge encouraging him to change his miserly ways before he dies.
It was this story about the rich man and Lazarus that inspired a very talented young man named Albert Schweitzer, -- a doctor, an historian, and a musician , -- to give up a money-making career in order to devote the greater portion of his life to missionary work for the poor in Africa.
So we wonder.… What is the Lord asking of us?
In today’s story I don’t think the rich man purposely set out to starve Lazarus. The problem was -- I don’t think he even noticed him. Surely he would not be so mean as to deprive a starving man of the scraps from his table. I just think he didn’t know there was a starving man out at the gate. He was too busy enjoying his riches to notice the guy.
Maybe the first lesson of today is to simply look around, make sure we are aware of the poor among us, and around the world, and not to deny the problem. These are our brothers and sisters in the human family. Once we are aware, I think we can trust our hearts to do the right thing.
As a matter of fact, it is people like you who are often the best bet to make a difference. My dear mother never had much money. But what she had she shared. A dollar here. A dollar there. In fact she was on so many charity mailing lists, one Christmas she received thirteen calendars from these places. They know who the givers are. With compassion in your hearts, people like you do great things for the poor.
2) What would have happened in today’s gospel if the rich man did indeed share his wealth and feed Lazarus. Perhaps Lazarus would have become healthy and strong, gone off to school, and then gone on to become a great teacher, writer, physician, scientist, statesman, inventor…
The problem with poverty in developing countries and in our own country is not just the lack of food and shelter. It is the great loss of talent that poverty brings. Our world is losing many great minds, great artists, great geniuses because we fail to meet the basic human needs of the poor. They can’t get their lives off the ground. They can’t fulfill their potential. And then, we are all the poorer.
3) Thirdly, I collect quotes. One of my favorites is from Benjamin Disraeli, He said, “The greatest good you can do for others is not just share your riches with them, but to reveal to them their own.”
Poverty deals with more than the lack of money and food.
Some people are poor in confidence, and need someone to encourage them.
Some people are poor in the awareness of their talents and need someone to open their eyes.
Some people are blind to their goodness and uniqueness and need someone to believe in them.
Some people are poor in love and need someone to listen to them and care about them.
We are all called to help the poor, to reveal to them their own riches.
Even if we have not a penny in our pocket, we are here because we are rich in faith, rich in the things that money can’t buy. Let us be grateful, and share our riches – as God does – lavishly.