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What Do We See or Not See

By Deacon Turf Martin

Think of the prayer of the author of the book of Proverbs, 30:8-9:
“Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God”.

The parable found in today’s Gospel, Jesus contrasts the life of a rich man and the poor man, Lazarus, who lives in the shadow of the rich man and his wealth. Both die.

Poverty seemed to be presented by Christ as a state that helps people rely more on God. The rich runs a greater risk of asking themselves: Why do I really need God when my richness can attend to all my needs? Yet, each one can make it either to heaven or to hell.

This parable is part of Jesus’ response to some Pharisees. These Pharisees are described in Luke’s Gospel as “loving money.” Jesus observed that the actions of some Pharisees spoke one way, but acted in another. Today’s Gospel demonstrates the importance of the care of the poor and is a reminder of the unimportance of wealth in the eyes of God. Poverty, being rich, being a priest, being married are all states of life. None is a direct automatic ticket either to heaven or to hell. It is the life lived in between these states and the gate of heaven, from here and now till then that determines our final destiny.

What we are expecting to see, what we want to see, we see. What we are not looking for, we don’t see. Lazarus is someone the rich man had stopped seeing a long time ago. He was still there; sitting on the street every day outside the rich man’s house, but invisible.

This problem might hit home. We all have a tendency to blame time, the pace of life these days, for our inability to notice everything that is going on around us. We spend too much time trying to multitask, so we think the solution is to slow down, which we’ll do some day, then we’ll increase our capacity to see what we need to see. Maybe. But let’s think of about changing what attracts our attention, and what we notice. There is no barrier between the things that God is expecting to see, wants to see, and the things God doesn’t. God’s presence is with the unsuccessful worker who annoys us, the poor on the street who don’t seem very deserving, the difficult sick person who needs constant help. All are people and places we would not be looking for, so busy are we looking elsewhere, and if we’re not looking, we don’t see them, and if we don’t see them, we will miss God’s presence, alive and thriving there. Getting down to seeing not just the surface, but all the layers of the world, the way God does, is hard work. We usually don’t notice Lazarus at of the edge of our vision, but still he is there.