Twenty-Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time at Mississippi Abbey

We have hosted a married couple’s retreat this weekend in which we have discussed how the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience might be helpful in their spiritual lives together.

In the vowed life, marital or monastic, those joined by the vows share a common consciousness …and a common conscience. That consciousness is formed around what matters most. This gives them a common way of looking at and valuing life experiences. Vows commit them to shared principles that are put before individual personalities.

In today’s gospel, the contrast between wealth and poverty is shown, but the point is lack of hospitality, lack of care on the part of the wealthy for those in poverty. The difference between the rich man and Lazarus was that Lazarus knew what it was like to be dependent. Dependence is our right relationship to God and neighbor. The evangelical counsel of poverty commends it to us to aid us in remembering our dependence on God and one another. This dependence constitutes our common consciousness.

…or at least it should. If mindfulness of our dependence does not occur to us, then its opposite will. Indeed, a common cultural value is independence in matters financial, psychological, and social. Even spiritual independence is valued by those who claim to be “spiritual, but not religious.”

In a gospel last week Jesus told us “No one can serve two masters.” We must decide on whom we will depend, will be reliant, will be influenced and will trust. It is delusional to think we will not be dependent on someone.  The decision pertains to whom. And who we choose pertains to what matters most, to shared principles, to the orientation of one’s heart.

Of course, we will want to depend on someone who is dependable. We will depend in the measure that he or she is dependable, but, given that, we will also depend in the measure of our poverty, our need for what the other has.

The rich man needed nothing; Lazarus needed any bit of kindness that anyone would show him. And the kindness of Abraham is what Jesus portrayed Lazarus as receiving. Kindness is an essential part of being a good person, an ethical person, because it is a selfless act and one done to better the lives of others. Kindness drives compassionate people and defines who they are. Kind people care about the well-being of others. 

Jesus the Healer exemplified kindness. He set it as the criterion for entrance into His kingdom when He said, “…as often as you did it for the least of my brethren…” It is best exemplified in the act which consummates a marriage because in pursuing the good of the other, one’s own good is assured. And it can bring new life!

In a country where one can be anything, be kind.