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Friends, today’s Gospel reading is the story of the poor man Lazarus, who sat outside the door of a rich man and “would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table.” The rich man isn’t named, and that’s very interesting. In the ancient world, the rich and powerful were the ones who deserved to have their names mentioned. Whose names weren’t mentioned? The poor and the marginalized. So this is a very interesting reversal that is going on here.

And we know this story well, right? Day after day, the rich man walks past Lazarus, in and out of his house. When Lazarus dies, he’s taken to the “bosom of Abraham.” But the rich man dies and he’s taken to the underworld. Again another reversal. You’d expect that God has blessed the rich and powerful and cursed those who are poor and hopeless. But that’s not the way the Bible imagines this situation. It’s Lazarus who’s carried to paradise and the rich man who’s carried downward.

There’s the revolutionary quality of the Bible, turning our expectations upside down. How much do we care for those who are poor? Can we name them, or are they for us, as for ancient peoples, just a nameless mass of suffering people? And are we committed to helping these people by performing the corporal works of mercy?