Sunday’s gospel (September 25) was the story of Lazarus and the rich man. It can be summarized in the line from Matthew in which Jesus says, “What you do to the least, you do for me.”

This story is a rather gruesome one. The man of wealth ignores the poor Lazarus at his door who begs for even a scrap from the rich man’s table. Of course, as we know, the tables are turned when both the rich man and Lazarus die. The rich man then finds himself suffering torment in the netherworld. He catches a glimpse of Abraham and cries out to him for help. Abraham reminds him that he had received what was good during his lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad. Now Lazarus is comforted and the rich man is tormented. The rich mas pushes on to no avail. Abraham holds fast that this rich man did not reach out to those in need and so he is not rewarded now.

So, what is the point here? Moreover, how did Abraham get into this story anyway? Well, Abraham is one of the main characters because in his lifetime his actions were the opposite of this rich man. He not only responded to others’ needs but he went out looking for those in need. He was the one who sat at the door of his house and received anyone who came by no matter what his or her status. This is an interesting juxtaposition. Abraham actually becomes the point of the story. His continued generosity is the focus of the Matthew narrative. Jesus is very clear that all are welcome. In fact, there are no stipulations as to who is invited to the banquet of the Lord. We are all invited and welcome. So, what does that mean to us today? How are we called to emulated the life of Abraham in the light of all the pain and suffering we witness every day in our world?

I do wonder often about how this Gospel in which Jesus is pretty clearly saying that “all are welcome to the Banquet of the Lord” works in the light of the present reality. In a world in which difference is suspect, in which exclusion and fear seem to create a place where few are welcome. We find that we seem to stand in opposition to each other rather than look for ways to be welcoming. Yes, I am wondering about the fires of Gehenna to be honest. Where are we being led? Can we change the trajectory of all this fear and suspicion found in our world and move toward one another in creating a more welcoming place based on the words and life of Jesus? Can we imagine how that would look for us today? Perhaps these words from Albert Nolan in Jesus Before Christianity can help us move in the direction of Jesus’ vision for the world: “The ‘kingdom’ of God, then, will be a society in which there will be no prestige and no status, no division of people no inferior or superior. Everyone will be loved and respected, not because of one’s educaton, wealth, ancestry, authority, rank, virtue, or other achievements, but because one like everyone else is a person. Some will find it very difficult to imagine what such a life would be like but the “babes” who have not had any privilege of status and those who have not valued it will find it very easy to appreciate the fulfillment that life in such a society would bring.” These children of God are at home in God’s ‘kingdom’ as Jesus understood it.

Let us pray: Lead us O Savior of the world into a vision that always brings us to befriending your anawin as we recognize our place among them. Teach us the truth of the ‘kingdom’ where love and respect surround us and fashion a place of peace. Amen.

Sister Mary Ellen Brinovec