By Father Brendan McGuire
Pastor of Holy Spirit Parish, San Jose, and Vicar General for Special Projects, Diocese of San Jose.
The prophet Amos says: “Woe to you complacent in Zion, lying on your ivory beds and stretched out on your couches…”
We can take so much for granted. We don’t need to be lying on ivory beds or fancy couches; we become complacent so easily. We take for granted our own children, our parents and even our friends. It happens to all of us, me included. We become so busy and go from one thing to the next and we cannot even see that we are in a slumber ourselves. Our busyness is almost like a narcotic; it numbs us to the reality in our lives. We do not see Christ in others. We yearn to, but we do not take the time to see Christ.
The Gospel story today is about complacency: The rich man had so much and he did not even see Lazarus. The irony in this story is that the rich man has no name; but the poor man, Lazarus, has a name. In the reality of life, that was reversed. The poor man had no name, and the rich man would have been somebody. The roles are reversed in the afterlife. The rich man now feels hopeless because he cannot be heard; whereas the poor man, Lazarus, would have been hopeless in this earthy life.
The name issue is pivotal to understanding this story. When we know somebody by name and when we call them by that name, there is a profound connection that happens. When we pray for somebody by name, it is meaningful. The opposite is also true: When we are not called by name, it has a devastating effect on our lives.
A ministry started in Denver, called “Christ in the City,” is an urban outreach to those who are homeless. They suggest that one of the biggest problems with the homeless people is that they feel invisible. We play a pretty significant role keeping them invisible. Most of us do not want to see them. Take them away out of our sight. Christ in the City suggests making eye contact and then asking them their name is huge to them. Most of the homeless in the streets have not been called by their name in months! Think of the impact if we have not heard our name called. Nobody knows us, nobody uses our name! It has a devastating effect and numbs the human spirit to its inherent dignity, and we feel like nobody.
It is not how much money we have that matters, it is what we do with what we have. And it is how we live our lives: to see the invisible, to see Christ in the broken; the homeless; the needy; the wounded; in our child who is struggling at school; in a young adult who is struggling in the world and our parent who is sick; a grandparent who is homebound. Christ is everywhere to be seen. When we see them and tend to them, then we are acting like Christ. We are removing their invisibility and calling them by name.