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Monday Morning Quarterback, Twenty-sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time

poor lazarusThis Sunday we heard the familiar story of the poor man Lazarus and the rich man who finds himself one day in hell.  In all his torment he discovers that eternity really is forever, and our final disposition truly is final.  It’s too easy to find in this reading merely a condemnation of the wealthy – of those who have “too much” and in the end of course it is a condemnation of “them”.  That is far too narrow a reading to begin to approach what Our Lord offers us through this parable.

Perhaps most notable about this rich man is the fact that he is not recorded as ever doing anything mean, derogatory or improper to Lazarus.  He doesn’t even have him removed from his gate and allows the man to continue going on begging, possibly even thinking himself somewhat generous for providing a place for this man to do what is natural to his state in life.  Yet in the end he is condemned, and that is where this story really gets interesting.

I once had a person go through the RCIA process who said, “I’m a pretty good person and I think that’s about all there is to it”.  This unnamed rich man could well have said the very same thing – while he enjoyed his station in life perhaps a little too much Jesus never tells us that he was mean or evil in any direct way; he was “a pretty good person”.  Both of these people share the same misunderstanding of Our Lord’s call.  We’re not called to establish our own baseline of “pretty good” and then judge ourselves worthy of Heaven, we’re called to “be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect“.  (Mt 5:48).  Just because we find this calling to be seemingly impossible does not make it void or mean we can decide to substitute our own measure in the place of that of Our Lord.

This parable is an urgent cry to each one of us to be constantly reviewing our attitudes and our actions – not to the point that we become victims of scrupulosity but that we maintain a constant vigil to ensure we are not slipping into complacency.  We have been given a measure against which to compare our attitudes and our actions, both that of Jesus and those many of the saints.  This is where a frequent and honest examination of conscience becomes a valuable tool.  We ought not to be afraid to find that we have failed in some small or even large way; what we ought to have a healthy fear of is continuing in that failure.  Let us not be so concerned with being a “pretty good person” that we fail to become a saint.

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  • Julio November 18, 2013, 5:56 pm

    I’ve been meditating on this very topic! How we’re called to be the salt of the earth.

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