The Poor Man at the Gate
26th Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

Antonio P. Pueyo
Reproduced with Permission

Our national papers this week banner tales of bribery and corruption in a large scale. The Philippine Senate is investigating a business deal that involves some people in government. It is about kickback. A government agency was influenced to favor a foreign company whose business proposal costs a whole lot more than its business rivals. This means that the excess amount is "kicked back" to the brokers. In this case, the broker at center stage is an influential government official. It is bribery in mega-scale. They are talking of millions of dollars or billions of pesos - over a cup of coffee or a round of golf. The saving part of the drama is that the two people who were offered the bribes refused them. One refused ten million dollars, another refused four million dollars.

Action starter: Who is sitting at your gate?

I imagine the story of Dives and Lazarus in this Sunday's gospel in a modern setting. The rich talk about millions of dollars in business deals over a round of golf while a few meters outside the club, street children sniff glue so they do not feel the pangs of hunger. Some family might be foraging among the garbage for something to eat. The Lord's story is too real even today.

In the story of the rich man (Dives) and Lazarus, there was a reversal of fortunes. The rich man who enjoyed everything in this life found himself in Hades (hell) when he died while the poor man was brought to the "bosom of Abraham" (heaven). Nothing was said about the moral goodness of Lazarus that made him deserve heaven. Nor was it mentioned that the rich man was wicked. The story of the Lord Jesus illustrated a situation where the rich man did not even notice the poor man at the gate who "desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table" (Lk. 16:21). He was guilty of indifference. He might not have done something really evil but he did not do the good that needed to be done. He was guilty of the sin of omission.

The saying of the Lord from last Sunday's story about the shrewd manager becomes more meaningful in this Sunday's story, "make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous mammon, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal habitations" (Lk. 16:9). The rich should share their wealth with the poor. The poor is to become their salvation. The warning of Amos to the rich of his times remains a warning today for those who have become too comfortable, "Woe to those who life upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves upon their couches...who drink wine in bowls and anoint themselves with the finest oils." (Amos 6:4ff).

There are many ways by which we can help those in need. There are charitable organizations and foundations that devote themselves to helping the sick, the homeless, the displaced persons, the refugees. One can offer scholarships for the poor by contacting any good school. If one prefers, he can directly be involved with poorer communities in their struggle for a better life such as self-help projects to build houses or obtain drinking water.

With so much suffering, poverty, and misery around us there are times when we become numb to suffering. Even donor fatigue can set in among those who try to help. The parable of Dives and Lazarus serve as a reminder that no matter how we narcotize ourselves or try to escape from reality, the poor man is just outside our gate.