Before I start:
*Disclaimer- I am by no means insinuating negatives about the people or places cited in the following reflection. They are listed on Google as the best places to live in alignment with the scripture passage I am reflecting upon. They have a right to be proud of their quality of life, and their reference is used for introspection. Thanks! Read on to the actual start... Thanks!
The Rich man is burning in hell, nails it on the head. "If someone came back to them from the dead, they would change their ways." He asks this of Abraham to send the lowly Lazarus back to warn the rest of the rich man's family, so they don't burn in eternity like him.
"Abraham replied, 'If they don't listen to Moses and the Prophets, they're not going to be convinced by someone who rises from the dead.'"
Well, here we are!
Are we listening? I mean, really listening to what God has taught the world? If you take a good look around the state of the world today, it should look strikingly familiar. But let us zoom in here at home.
The Prophet Amos, who is one of the Prophets as mentioned earlier, paints our current situation in our country, and its culture almost entirely. Here, allow me to juxtapose this for you...
"Woe to you who think you live on easy street in Zion (America),
who think Mount Samaria (Eden Prairie, MN) is the good life.
You assume you're at the top of the heap,
voted the number-one best place to live.
Well, wake up and look around. Get off your pedestal.
Take a look at Calneh (Calgary, Canada).
Go and visit Great Hamath (Oslo, Norway).
Look in on Gath of the Philistines (Queenstown, New Zealand).
Doesn't that take you off your high horse?
Compared to them, you're not much, are you?"
- Paraphrased from Amos 6:1a, 4-7
I use this reading to illustrate that our American attitudes might need a humbling, as Amos suggests. If we look at other democratic nations, we aren't at the "top of the heap," yet we still assert we are the best. It's not that we aren't the top of a single heap, we are in terms of the western hemisphere. But other nations are just as religiously liberated, armed, and free speech able as the United States. Just something to note.
Jesus shares the story of Lazarus and the rich man. This is especially important as the world shifts its views away from the leadership of Christ to the direction of morally flawed people. Jesus, on a few accounts, talks about how wealth and power are to be used to benefit those who lack those very things. Those same ideas are expounded through Moses and the Old Testament Prophets whom the rich man paid no attention too, despite his presumed Judaism. He even attempts to bargain with Abraham, who is the only human that ever effectively bargained with God. The master negotiator shuts the rich man down.
Christ also does something we may gloss over. He's the someone that comes back from the dead to show us we need to change our ways. Maybe you've caught that before, but it was a revelation to me.
St. Paul makes that crystal clear in his first letter to Timothy.
"I'm charging you before the life-giving God and before Christ, who took his stand before Pontius Pilate and didn't give an inch: Keep this command to the letter, and don't slack off."
- Paraphrased of 1 TIMOTHY 6:13-14
In other words, listen to the Savior who came back from the dead and follow-through.
Look, I firmly believe that the majority of people on this planet are good. They want what is best for themselves and their neighbors. How we arrive at those points is what creates war or at the very least, conflict. This isn't to tear us down but shift our eyes horizontally to our like-minded people in other places, and vertically up toward God and God's vision and down to those who need our compassion.
In a way, we are God's middle-class workers. We are tasked with keeping our affairs in order and then making sure others have the tools, support, and love they need to become middle-class too. The Canonized Saints worked this method extremely well. Honestly, look at your favorite Saints, what did they do? They kept their heart on God and their eyes on their brothers and sisters. Francis, Kolbe, Teresa of Calcutta, Romero, Bosco, and so many others understood this position and ran with it to the finish line.
Jesus gives us this perspective in the parable. It is up to us to abide by Moses, the Prophets, and most importantly, Jesus. Through our baptism, we are priests, prophets, and kings. A priest lives among the people, tending to them and their souls. A prophet sees God at work in the world and calls it out for all to see. Not on street corners but through honest everyday living. And as a king, we are in control of our selves. No one has real power over us except the Lord who loves us beyond reason.
So a man came back from the dead to tell us God's truth is legitimate. I have to work on my attention span for that message. Will you join me?