Tag Archives: Dives and Lazarus

The grace of open eyes (Ordinary Sunday 26, Year C)

PRELUDE

By way of a beginning, I want to tell you about something that happened to me on the flight out to Australia, when our family migrated in 1965. We weren’t well off, we only had a few pounds for a family of four children. I was eleven, the eldest, and for my first time on an aeroplane I was dressed in my very best clothes—my school uniform. I was well aware that most people who flew on international flights could afford something better than a school uniform. But there I was—English school cap, tie and blazer, shirt, long pants and socks all thick enough to cope with the Yorkshire cold. And I was walking down the steps of the plane onto the tarmac at Kolkata Airport. It must have been around 40 degrees. 

It was the first time I’d known what ‘hot’ could mean. I had stepped out of the air-conditioned then-state-of-the-art Boeing 707—and right into a blast furnace. 

I don’t know how far away the airport building was. It felt like half a mile. I was walking with my dad, and I saw some of the local people. If I had felt that wearing a school uniform on an international flight was a sign of poverty, I was now staring real poverty in the face for the very first time. These people were in rags, leaning into the fence, on the outside, looking in at us. They needed new clothes and a good feed.

The distress in my voice must have been clearly obvious when I mentioned them to my dad. He was a good man; but all he said was ‘Don’t look at them, there’s nothing we can do for them.’

For me, it was too late. I had already looked and I had seen.

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26th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C: 26 September 2010)

Forgiving debt—for Social Justice Sunday


Readings
1 Timothy 6.6-19
Luke 16.19-31

I mentioned the term ubuntu some weeks ago. I’d like to remind you of it again. Remember, it’s an African word meaning ‘the essence of being human’. Ubuntu means that we need other human beings just to be human. The Zulu and Shona people of southern Africa say: ‘a person is a person through other persons’—not apart from them. Ubuntu means that for us to do well, we need others to do well.

Desmond Tutu says (God has a Dream, chapter 2):

A person with ubuntu is welcoming, hospitable, warm and generous, willing to share. Such people are open and available to others, willing to be vulnerable, affirming of others, do not feel threatened that others are able and good, for they have a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that they belong in a greater whole.

Tutu also says that in southern Africa, when they wish to speak well of someone they say, ‘So-and-so has ubuntu.’ So-and-so is a person who recognises others as persons. I want to suggest that this African approach to life is one that we could learn from.

The rich man in the ‘Pearly Gates-type’ story that Jesus retold did not have ubuntu. He didn’t recognise Lazarus as a person. Lazarus ‘longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table’. But Lazarus went hungry.

Do you notice something about this story? About who is named and who isn’t? In most stories, the rich and powerful are named and the ordinary people are anonymous. It’s the other way here. Jesus names the poor man. The other—the powerful man—is just ‘a rich man’. In fact, the ‘rich man’ is every person who has enough of the world’s goods—shelter, food, health care, education—yet who closes his or her heart to the poor. The rich man’s name could very easily be ‘Paul Walton’. Continue reading

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