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Immense distances

(Am 6.1a,4-7; 1 Tm 6.11-16; Lk 16.19-31)

My great grandparents, August and Marianna, landed in Lyttelton in 1874. They came from Poland, a country that no longer existed, having been absorbed into East Prussia. They were fleeing social and religious persecution. They crossed from one world to another, a journey of about three months which could be undertaken in about three days now. The distance was vast, not just physically, but also in terms of language, food, culture and land.

The parable from Luke’s gospel put before us today is also about immense distances. It depicts Dives’ world : luxurious clothes, rich food, whose scraps were tossed heedlessly on the floor. In contrast lay Lazarus, clothed in rags, desperately hungry, beset by packs of ferocious dogs he could barely beat off. Physically distant, the two also resided in different worlds. Come death, their roles are reversed. Lazarus lay in the heavenly banquet hall, face to face with Abraham, while Dives writhed in distant fires. Three times he strove to reach across the chasm, to beg a drop of water, to warn his family (probably by dream), finally to come as a spectre from the dead. Abraham’s reply is brief: the gulf he has created can no longer be bridged by words or personal appeal.

Today in our digital world, from our lounge we can be present to the war in the Ukraine, the royal funeral in London, or to fires raging in Portugal or Spain. These may grip our emotions but we can switch to another channel. Equally, we may feel utterly powerless, unable to enable change at such distance. At such a time we need to recall that we are now part of one vast interconnected planetary system. Here in New Zealand there are poor in our streets, devoid of power or assets to change their broken lives and families.

With creativity, we can reach out through finance, service, prayer and advocacy on their behalf. Like Jesus, we can be open to the poor and helpless; unable perhaps to change the world, but in our own way able to touch others, helping them to see this world through compassionate and caring eyes.

Source: 26th Sunday year C1

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