The Dead Has Spoken (No Audio Today, please see "Full Text of Podcast")
#TheDeadHasSpoken is the podcast for September 29, 2019, A homeless man’s box set on fire, a family member doesn’t understand, the Pharisees expose themselves and Jesus has a response to them, and us. Listen here FREE and find out more: Download it into your phone. #Luke16 #RichardSmallets #Lazarus #Dives #Homeless #Poor #Rich
Full Text of Podcast, Open Here (for our Deaf and H/H Brethren)
For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Fr. Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 9/29/2019 The 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Luke 16:19-31.
On September 12, 2019, in the night, a homeless man lay sleeping in his cardboard home outside an art museum in Glendale, California, 10 miles north of Los Angeles. He did not hear Richard Smallets approach his makeshift home. Nor did he see what Richard Smallets did before Smallets left the scene, but he smelt it. The homeless man was awakened by the smell of smoke, smoke that was coming from his cardboard home which had been set on fire. It had been set on fire by Richard Smallets. (USA Today).
The Lord hears the cry of the poor, blessed be the Lord.
I was sitting at the table with a family member who I know to be one of the most faithful, kind, and generous people I know. We were talking about giving money to the poor, because [I/we] live near Chicago, it is not unusual to see beggars everywhere we walk in the City. They, like Lazarus, are usually dressed in rags, or very dirty outdated clothing. They hold Styrofoam cups with little cardboard signs asking for something, anything. I tell this family member that my daughter taught me to always break a $20 when I go into the City and put a dollar in every cup on the way to where we are going. The family member was physically agitated. It would not be inaccurate to say that they “recoiled” at the idea of giving money to beggars because, “They are just going to use it on drugs.”
I quoted Luke 6:30, where Jesus, at the end of his version of the Beatitudes says, “Give to everyone who begs from you; and of him who takes from you do not ask them again.” My family member, who was at that very moment, sharing a moment of kindness to me in one of my greatest hours of need, said, “Why should I share with them when we were poor and we worked hard and we got ourselves out of being poor?”
My Christian family member was not quoting the Bible back to me, they were quoting Libertarian philosophy which sees our wealth as part of us. We, in the United States, are influenced greatly by this notion that our labor is our property. That property produces a wage, which also, by extension is our property. Libertarian philosophy says that we ought to expect others to use their labor to produce a wage. Libertarian philosophy says that we are under no obligation to help anyone. That is Libertarian philosophy. It is NOT Christianity.
Under Libertarian philosophy, if someone is sleeping on the streets in a cardboard box, then they are not using their labor correctly. They are not being a “productive member of society.” They are then not worthy. The poor must be lazy. That is Libertarian philosophy. It is NOT Christianity.
The Bible, the Christian scriptures, the very revelation of the Word of God is replete with admonitions to remember the poor. So, one would think the Pharisees, the lay people who were the keepers and interpreters of the Torah extraordinaire, would be awesome at giving money away. This, it turns out, is not the case.
At the end of the passage just before our Gospel for today, the Parable of the Unjust Steward, as we like to call it, Jesus says, “You cannot serve God and money.” To which the Pharisees, in verse 14, “scoffed at him.” They scoffed at him because they were “lovers of money” it says.
It is with this background that Jesus tells the story of Dives (which means ‘The Rich Man’) and Lazarus. Dives was clothed in purple (a rare cloth of the time) and fine linen. He feasted sumptuously every day. Lazarus was a homeless guy at the gate who not only was wearing dirty out of date clothing, he also had sores all over his body. He “longed to eat the scraps” that fell from Dives’ sumptuous table. The effect is to make Lazarus unclean by the Law of Moses, and disgusting to us.
The two die on the same day. One goes to heaven and the other goes to hell. Lazarus receives all he never received in this life and Dives gets the torment he never received. It is the Divine Reversal. It is the justice of God. Yet, it seems that Dives has not gotten the memo that this is a permanent arrangement. He begins to ask that Lazarus, who is with Father Abraham in paradise, be made to come serve him in Hell. Remember, he never once relieved Lazarus pain as the man sat outside his door, hungry, sick, and impoverished. There was no notice of Lazarus, until, that is, the arrogance that can set in from being rich and privileged sets in. It never occurs to Dives that he has no privileges in hell. Now, Dives is the “unseen”. He, in his arrogance, which apparently does not vanish when one is thrown into hell, he still thinks he deserves a break and that the social order remains: he deserves to be served because he is rich.
Furthermore, Dives is arrogant enough to think he can bargain for his family. It is probably the first selfless thought that Dives has had in a long time. He asks that Lazarus, that poor dude who he still thinks is less than him, be sent to save his family. Abraham says, “they have the Law and the prophets.” They do, indeed. So do the Pharisees. The Pharisees have the same scriptures. As Dives should have known to love and serve the poor with his vast wealth, so should the Pharisees who love their money. It is written in the law that they study so much.
Then Jesus speaks of his resurrection. He says basically that after he is raised from the dead, those who love money will not hear him either. There will still be Lazaruses sitting at the doors begging, people on the streets with Styrofoam cups and cardboard signs, and homeless people awakened by the smell of what little they have set on fire for no more reason than that they are poor.
We are Christians. We are not Pharisees, although I would love for us to have the same devotion to the Scriptures and worship as the Pharisees. We are not Libertarians. We are those who have been baptized into the Risen Christ. We are Christ. We are his hands and feet. We are his eyes, ears, and mouth. We are the walking, talking, living Christ to those who do not know why we put a dollar bill in every cup as we walk through the big City; nor do we care. We are the ones who hear the cry of the poor from the perspective of God; that all lives, even lives we despise, are worthy of love, worthy of shelter, food, clothing, education, health care, and entertainment.
The fact of the matter is, we are people who not only have the Law and the Prophets, we have the One who has come back from the dead. He is our guide. He is our logic. He is the word, the divine reasoning, become flesh who incorporates us into himself to change us. He has not come just to change our behavior. He has come to change our thinking, our believing, our perspective, our understanding of wealth, poverty, and humanity.
So, the sin of Dives wasn’t his wealth. It was his arrogance that caused him to do so little for others than himself with his wealth. He is a warning to the Pharisees. He is a warning to us. Amen.
This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated. My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2019.
Donate $2 for This Podcast
Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian