The rich man in today's Gospel lived in great opulence, completely neglecting the starving man at his gates; so, too, do First World countries consume the world's resources, ignoring the effects of climate change on people everywhere, especially the poor and the children of the future. But teenage climate activist, Greta Thunberg, will not allow indifference, apathy and collective narcissism to be the final word. Under her leadership, last Friday saw the largest climate strike in history -- more than 4 million youth and adults from 150 countries took to the streets to protest the ecological emergency that is facing our planet.
"We demand a safe future -- is this too much to ask?"
is one of Thunberg's rallying cries.
"If no one else will take action, then we will!"
I marvel at how a child is awakening the conscience of the world and how consciousness is rising as a result. She is the "world leader" who is inspiring, guiding and mobilizing people from Antarctica (yes, there are people who live there!) to Afghanistan, from Germany to Australia, from the Philippines to Ireland. She is a sign of hope, a voice crying out in the wilderness, a sign that God is truly present in this world, working through the least likely to achieve the unthinkable.
Since now is the "right time" for each of us to assess what more we might be doing to safeguard life on this planet, I have included 42 questions from my book,
Preaching & Teaching Laudato Si"
in this issue of
you can find the
-- another set of 42 questions-- at a link on the bottom of the home page to my website. You have my permission to use my
Positive and Negative Ecological Confessions
in your classrooms and faith communities provided you give my name, website and the title of my book.
I hope you find the
Thus says the LORD the God of hosts:
Woe to the complacent in Zion!
Lying upon beds of ivory,
stretched comfortably on their couches,
they eat lambs taken from the flock,
and calves from the stall!
Improvising to the music of the harp,
like David, they devise their own accompaniment.
They drink wine from bowls
and anoint themselves with the best oils;
yet they are not made ill by the collapse of Joseph!
Therefore, now they shall be the first to go into exile,
and their wanton revelry shall be done away with.
Whether we focus on the "complacent in Zion" lying on their beds of ivory, or whether we imagine the rich man in today's Gospel dressed in purple and dining sumptuously each day, it is easy to distance ourselves from these characters. After all, they are the "super wealthy" who enjoy lifestyles far removed from what most of us have ever experienced or could ever hope to achieve; they are the celebrities and social media-influencers, the jet-setters and fashion icons, the millionaires and billionaires... Amos must be speaking about them, right? And Jesus' rich man no doubt belongs to the same crowd. This way of thinking, however, blocks us from recognizing our own culpability in a world of "have's" and "have-not's." Though we may not live in mansions or own yachts, planes or towering skyscrapers. there are still "Lazaruses" who show up at our doors with regularity -- if we could only see them! And because we fail to notice them, we miss countless opportunities to reach out in loving service to the lost and forsaken in our midst.
I am not speaking about the homeless people to whom we might toss a dollar bill and keep on walking; nor am I speaking of street musicians or panhandlers, nor even of the countless charities that beg for consideration via mail, email or even by phone. Rather, "Lazarus" is that person in need of a friend, a guide, a mentor, a teacher, a healer, a good neighbor --someone who turns to us for a listening ear, words of advice, a comforting response, a few minutes of our time.... Like the pauper who wastes away at the rich man's door, Lazarus is starving -- not necessarily because s/he lacks food for the stomach but also because food for mind and soul is also in short supply. Lazarus hungers for love, for meaning, for a sense of purpose, for opportunities, for affirmation, for encouragement, for support, for hope, for Good News.... but doors remain closed and s/he is left out in the cold.
We are the wealthy ones if we have the resources to help "Lazarus"navigate the complexities of life. Sadly, we are often so preoccupied with our own affairs, so busy with multi-tasking and juggling various activities that Lazarus is not even on our radar. We fail to see Lazarus because we have other priorities that blind us to the needs of others. Even if Lazarus works with us, prays with us, plays with us or even lives with us, we simply don't notice; as a result, we don't even share the scraps from our tables.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
- Who is "Lazarus" in your life? How many people can you name?
- What does "Lazarus" want of you?
- What does Jesus expect of you when it comes to reaching out to Lazarus?
- What stops you from actually seeing Lazarus?