September 24, 2016
“Child, remember that during your lifetime you received good things.” (Lk 16:25)
Abraham does not lack tenderness for his children. He treasures each one as much as Ishmael and Isaac – the first fruits of a long-awaited promise that would not be fulfilled in his lifetime.
“I will bless you and make your descendants as countless as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore.” (Gn 22:17)
Ishmael he sent away with grieving heart. Isaac he gave to God with broken heart, only to receive him back as a symbol of what was to come. Now he receives Lazarus from a life of misery into his bosom. To the rich man – unnamed, but not unacknowledged – he calls out, “Child, remember…”
This child of Abraham finds himself alienated from his father’s bosom, the place of his joy. But what he hasn’t yet realized is that he himself, unknowingly, or at least without full understanding, created the chasm between himself and his father by creating, or failing to bridge, the chasm between himself and Lazarus, his brother. Perhaps he didn’t take seriously the deep demands of Moses and the prophets, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Lv 19:18). Perhaps he was just too comfortable with himself, his world and his position in it
Questions make us uneasy when they surface hidden guilt and anxiety. Defensiveness is the knee-jerk reaction many of us have to one who calls our way of life and our choices into question. In order to live peacefully with a comfortable degree of self-satisfaction, we have chosen to ignore great swaths of information. The fear, pain and rage that dwell in my secret depths, the lives and sufferings, problems and tragedies of others, and a whole world of overwhelming mystery and terrifying fragility, all threaten to pierce through my armor and inject chaos and death into my heart.
But this piercing saves. It delivers us from oblivion. And this is what the rich man is asking for on behalf of his brothers – though he still only recognizes five brothers as his own. He wants more for them than words on a page: “if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent” (Lk 16:30). He believes that the sight of Lazarus in death would have more of an effect on hardened hearts than the sight of him in life. Abraham, father of a multitude, knows better.
One has to be willing to be pierced.
Remember, my child, that you are one of many brothers and sisters, that you are all one in the sight of your heavenly Father.
This wealth of yours belongs to him. This pain of his belongs to you.
Open yourself to reality.
Face death and destruction.