Our Ministries
23 Sep

Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Woe to the Complacent

There was a rich man and a poor man. The poor man was Lazarus and the rich man—well, he was nameless. Surprised? Wouldn’t we expect it to be the other way around? The rich ones are seen and recognized with prominent names. They may even be famous. But in this case, the one who isn’t even supposed to be seen or heard from has the name. What a reversal! What a turning upside down!

We hear a description of where the two characters in the story were physically located and what happened to each one both on earth and in the afterlife. But did they actually ever talk to each other? Get to know each other? Is it only in the afterlife that they both realize how much they needed each other?

The reading from the prophet Amos begins with the words “woe to the complacent.” The story of the rich man and Lazarus illustrates just that. We can be totally oblivious to what is going on, to who yearns to break bread with us, to who yearns for connection. And what is the price we pay for this?

I haven’t gone back to the classic short book, The Little Prince by Antoine Saint Exupery, for quite some time. But when I began this reflection, I remembered the phrase “become responsible for” in the book. I googled the phrase and the title of the book and this is the dialogue that I discovered.

There is a chapter that finds the Little Prince unhappy and lonely. And then he meets a fox.

 “Come and play with me,” he says to the fox.

“I cannot play with you,” the fox replies. “I am not tamed.”

“What does that mean — to tame?”

“It means to establish ties. To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world…please, tame me!”

“I want to, very much,” the Little Prince replied, “but I have not much time. I have friends to discover, and a great many things to understand.”

“One only understands the things that one tames,” the fox said.

The Little Prince finally understands what the fox has been saying: To tame something means you’re investing time and energy in order to know it better. When this is achieved, you and this other thing become forever intertwined.

The opposite of complacency is connectedness—a realization that we need each other. And this is what the corporal works of mercy are all about. We feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the sick, bury the dead, and visit the imprisoned. We see them. We hear them. We do something!

For an end to our complacency, for this let us all work and pray.

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