The Door and the Chasm

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September 25, 2016 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause

September 25, 2016
Luke 16:19-31
Fr. George Smiga

At first glance, the parable in today’s gospel seems to be about heaven and hell. A rich man feasts sumptuously every day, ignoring a beggar named Lazarus at his door. Then both men die. The rich man is in torment, whereas Lazarus is blessed in the presence of Abraham. This parable, however, is about much more than the afterlife. It carries an immediate message for our lives today.

I would describe this message as a movement from the door to a chasm. At the beginning of the parable, the rich man is happy and blessed. He is free to do what he wishes, to live as he will. Lazarus sits at his door. It is a door that the rich man can open. The rich man can go through that door and bring food to the hungry Lazarus. Or he can bring Lazarus through that door, into his home to bind his wounds and feed him at his table. Yet even though the door at which Lazarus sits can be opened, the rich man does not use it. He seems oblivious to the opportunity he has to connect with others, to do what is right.

In the second half of this parable, all this changes. The rich man is no longer free. He is imprisoned in torment and now he wishes to connect with Lazarus, who he sees in the bosom of Abraham. He asks that Lazarus come to him, but Abraham explains that it is impossible. Between them there has been established a huge chasm, across which no one can pass. What once was possible is now impossible. The door has become a chasm.

This parable invites us to look around at our own lives. We might be happy and content, but are there doors that we should open while we can? For a time might come where opening them is no longer possible. We might be happy in our marriage, content with our life, moving from one thing to the next, but not noticing that we are drifting away from our spouse. We no longer talk about important things. Our love is dying. Today we could still open the door and reconnect. But if we wait until divorce papers are filed, that door might be locked.

We may have had a falling out with a close friend or family member, and we are still smarting because of the injustice of it all. But we say to ourselves, “He’ll get over it. She’ll come around”. Today, we could pick up the phone and ask to talk. But a day might come where the other person is no longer willing to talk. The door will have become a chasm.

We might be dismayed as we watch the news reports about protests in our cities over police shootings. But we say to ourselves, “Our city is calm. My home is safe.“  Today we could choose to act, to become involved, to promote programs and political leaders who are committed to dialogue and reform of the relationship between police and the communities they patrol. But if we wait until there is rioting in our streets and our families are threatened, that door may no longer be open to us.

The rich man in today’s gospel does not appear to be mean or wicked. He simply does not recognize the opportunities that are present to him in order to connect with other people, to do what is right. He feels that his life is fine. But it is ready to collapse. The parable in today’s gospel asks us to be wiser than the rich man. It asks us to open the doors that we can, to provide love, forgiveness, and justice to others. Waiting could be fatal. For a time may come when, like the rich man, we discover that a step that was once possible has become a wide expanse, over which no one can cross.

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