If someone was a diehard Red Sox fan and, say, in the year 2004 they were completely out of commission. The person was in a horrible accident say, and ended up in a coma for the better part of 2004. And after miraculously regaining their health through the many prayers and novenas offered for them, pleading to God and the many saints for a re-awakening of their loved one, and the recovering person was told that the Boston Red Sox won the World Series while they remained in a coma, do you think that person would believe you? Or, would they think you were trying to play a cruel game with their emotions, or just trying to make them feel better quicker?
If a person was on Mars or Venus for the entire year of 2004 when the Red Sox won the World Series…
Well, you get the point. The Boston Red Sox winning the World Series for the first time in what seemed like a thousand years –although it was only 86 – would be a difficult truth for anyone to accept who missed out on the locally historic baseball events of that year for obvious reasons. Be it for the reason of a coma or a yearlong trip to the Red Planet. Some things reach the “next to impossible” stage of belief. The Red Sox winning the World Series prior to 2004 is one of them. And someone being raised from the dead is another. Not from a coma. But from death. And three days’ worth no less!
The problem with the rich man in the parable, which Jesus directs directly at the well-to-do Pharisees, is that the rich man was blind. He wasn’t Bartimeus blind, like having no eyesight since birth. He was spiritually blind, meaning he could simply walk past a poor beggar, which many people do because they are afraid they might catch some disease from his filthy clothes, or he might pull a knife on them, and after walking past the poor beggar like he was a doormat, he would continue doing what he was doing without the possibility of a poor man begging at his front door ever being noticed. His blindness is not intentional, per se, toward Lazarus the poor man. The rich man doesn’t look at Lazarus and say, “Hey you, get off my front doorstep before I pick you up and remove you myself!” All the while thinking in the back of his mind, “I wouldn’t touch this guy with a ten-foot pole! Or a telephone pole!”
And others like to make excuses for people like the rich man. “Oh, he’s spiritually ignorant,” they say. “He really doesn’t know what he’s doing when he avoids Lazarus at his front door. He really thinks Lazarus is just a bad looking doormat that can be stepped on because Lazarus is hiding his head underneath all the filthy clothes he’s wearing in order to stay warm. So the rich man can’t even see a person at his door!” P-Lease!
You know where spiritual ignorance will get someone? To a place of torment. If a person can see all the numbers in their bank account, and the golden chair in which they sit, then they are very capable of seeing a poor man sitting at their front door. Not being capable of such vision is harder to believe than the Red Sox winning the World Series. Or, someone being raised from the dead after a few days in a tomb.
No excuses. Avoidance is a choice by a person for the purpose of looking the other way.
Encounter is a choice to do the work of God, and seeing the face of God in the despised.
As Christians who have made the wise choice of practicing our faith on a weekly basis, thus a daily basis, we have made the choice, and continue to make the choice, of encounter. Encounter is possessing within our hearts and souls a 20/20 spiritual vision of our surroundings and our world.
We pray for peace, doing all in our power to avoid war and all its ugly, violent effects on human bodies and psyches. We defend life, especially life that is most vulnerable, weak, and without a voice. We speak for those who cannot say, “Let me live.” We perform works of charity and works of mercy, not to make ourselves feel good – although St. Paul writes that God loves a cheerful giver – but because it’s the loving thing to do. And we pray. We pray for those who are sick, for those who are dealing with depression or some other disease. We pray for those searching for labor in order to fulfill that good dignity within us. We pray for any situation where we want God to interfere, intercede, and bring about a better result. St. Monica prayed for 30 years for the conversion of her son St Augustine. 30 years! How many of us would have given up on encounter over that time and taken on avoidance, or even anger?
As practicing Catholics, we are people of encounter. This is how we best represent our Lord. Spiritual ignorance is for those who are spiritually ignorant. It’s for those who live according to the standards of the world, and are too proud to ever need their faith. Encounter takes humility, and the rich man had none of that virtue….Until he arrived at his eternal destination. But by that time it was too late. And my dear friends, there is such a thing in our faith, despite some heretical hearsay to the contrary, as being too late.
We avoid being too late by continuing to be people of encounter. We have eyes to see and ears to hear the cry of the poor. We are people of encounter. Which makes all good things believable. Even the Red Sox winning the World Series. And one Jewish man from Nazareth being raised from the dead, so that we also may be carried by the angels to the bosom of Abraham.