Heartless indifference

GOD'S WORD TODAY - Manuel V. Francisco, S.J. -

That rich man in today’s Gospel reading was living a life, not only of self-indulgence, but of heartless indifference. That poor, suffering Lazarus at his doorstep was grossly ignored as he ate, drank, and dressed in luxury. He stubbornly stayed that way, unconverted, till the end of his life. He thus got what he deserved. Eternal damnation. We don’t want to end that way, do we?!

First of all, do we recognize the many faces of Lazarus at our doorstep? As I have expressed before to our readers, Lazarus could be your underpaid househelp in your own home. Or they could be your employees in the company or factory: your janitors, security guards, construction and factory workers. Lazarus could be the farmers who till your land, or your hired fishermen. Lazarus could be your convento boys and pastoral workers, and many of your parishioners, the people of God.

Lazarus is anyone who is poorer than yourself - not only in food, clothing, and shelter, but poorer than you in education, authority, and power ? any kind of power. They are the Lazaruses at your doorstep, begging not so much for dole-outs, which can be dehumanizing, but seeking for equal treatment with you, equal human rights as yours, and a more equitable share of God’s creation ? in the form of higher wages, human benefits, profit-sharing, and participation in decisions that affect their lives.

We can no longer accept that life-principle that we inherited from the West: “Live and let live.” This is invoked in the name of respect for other people’s privacy and liberty. But more often than not, it is rationalized to mean: “Live and let die.”

On both the personal and societal levels, we are called by God to a life of stewardship, simplicity, and sharing. Our human hearts were created by God to be sensitive and caring toward those who need our time, talents, and treasures. We cannot turn our backs on the many faces of Lazarus knocking at our door.

Once again, let us clarify what that Christian, alternative lifestyle really means. Stewardship, Simplicity, Sharing.

Stewardship. We are the Creator’s caretakers. We are not owners but stewards of creation. “The Lord’s are the earth and its fullness; the world and those who dwell in it.” (Psalm 24: 1). “Thus should one regard us: as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Now it is of course required of stewards that they be trustworthy.” (1 Cor. 4: 1-2). Our lives, talents, and resources as a family have been entrusted to us not to be used merely for our own personal interests, but according to God’s designs. And what are God’s designs? The land and its products are for all, and not just for some. No family should have too much, and no family should have too little. (Acts 2: 42-45; 4: 32-35). This leads our family to a more simple lifestyle.

Simplicity. This means simple living, the opposite of consumerism, extravagance, and the colonial mentality. Healthy food need not be the best food. Decent clothes need not be the expensive ones. Our home need not be the envy of the neighbors. Our celebrations and recreation can become more creative, more simple, and much less expensive. Energy conservation can become second nature to us all. Such simple living leads us to greater sharing.

Sharing. If our needs and tastes are more simple, then there will be more of ourselves and what we have that we can share with others. Sharing of our time and caring. Sharing of our talents and material resources. Christianity is a life of sharing. This means solidarity with the poor, the powerless, and the victims of injustice. Persons are more important than possessions. It is in sharing that God’s miracle happens, as it did in the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes (Jn. 16: 1-15).

In his Encyclical on Social Concerns, the late Pope John Paul II was very clear in articulating this, and I quote in part: “It is necessary to state once more the characteristic principle of Christian social doctrine: the goods of this world are originally meant for all. The right to private property is valid and necessary, but it does not nullify the value of this principle. Private property, in fact, is under a ‘social mortgage,’ which means that it has an intrinsically social function based upon and justified precisely by the principle of the universal destination of goods.” (#42).

Divine Providence has given us our newly-elected President Aquino, whose vision is to maximize the potentials of our country for the benefit of all and not just a small minority. Let us support him all the way.

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