Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Sin of Indifference

Twenty Sixth Ordinary Sunday Year C

In today’s gospel, we hear of the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. It is a simple parable that is often misunderstood. Lazarus, the poor man, goes to heaven while the rich man goes to hell. Why? Was it because Lazarus was poor and the rich man was rich? If that is the case, many of us here would be going to hell because we are living comfortable lives.

The sin of the rich man was not his wealth. Neither was it because he was a cruel and selfish man. The story does not tell us that the rich man had Lazarus beaten or that he had send his dogs to bite him. This was not the reason why the rich man went to hell. The sin of the rich man was his indifference – he didn’t care what happened to Lazarus, he didn’t care about what was happening around him, he didn’t care about anyone else except himself. By the time he learnt to care for someone, in this case it was his brothers, it was too late. In fact, while he was still alive, the rich man didn’t really care about what happened to his brothers. A comparison is even made between the dogs and this rich man. Even the dogs took notice of Lazarus and his condition, while the rich man remained indifferent to his fellow human.

Many of us think that if we mind our own business and do not poke our noses into other peoples business – and if we avoided what Chinese would consider the three major sins: arson, murder and rape – we should be fine and should at least earn a place in heaven. Today’s gospel parable should shake us up from this minimalistic way of thinking (i.e. do only the minimum – why do more?). In fact, complacency/ indifference is one of the greatest ills of our society. This was basically the attitude of the Israelites before their country was destroyed. Indifference made them deaf to the cries of the poor and blind and blind to the injustices that was happening in Israel. Today, many people also choose to be deaf and blind. We pretend that everything is fine as long as our lives and our family life is not affected.

St. Paul reminds Timothy in the second reading that it is not enough to just avoid major sins and take care of one’s own affairs. He reminds us that “as a man dedicated to God, you must aim to be saintly and religious, filled with faith and love, patient and gentle.” It is not enough to be mediocre. In fact, there is no such thing as a mediocre Christian. Each of us is called to saintliness and holiness.

We must not be satisfied with doing just the minimum. We must not be satisfied with only taking care of our own affairs while not caring about what happens to everyone else. We must not remain insensitive to needs of others. If not, our fate will be like that of the rich man in today’s gospel. In today’s mass, let us pray for the grace to be able to see with the eyes and hear with the ears of compassion – to be able recognize, as Jesus did, our brother and sister who is in need.

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