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9/26/2013 12:16:00 PM
We are Called to Bridge the Gap

Mary Jo Tully
Chancellor, Archdiocese of Portland

Sept. 29, 2013
Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Amos 6:1a, 4-7
1 Timothy 6:11-16
Luke 16:19-31

The economic gap between generations in my family seems astonishing. The children of my generation thought of themselves as “poor” but we were economic light years away from the hardships my grandparents knew. I don’t think that my nephews and nieces consider themselves impoverished—merely “deprived.” Still, the economic distance between their generation and my grandparents’ widens daily. It has become a chasm not unlike the one that separated Lazarus and the rich man in the Gospel. What would my grandparents think of the first of their great grandchildren buying a home in the suburbs?

Our story is not unusual. As the gap between generations widens in our country, so too does the distance between the poor and the wealthy. The rich become richer and the poor become poorer as the middle class disappears. The “poverty” my brothers, sister and I recall is far different from the needs of today’s impoverished. We remember sharing bedrooms and many of today’s poor are homeless. We recall a brief time when we used powdered milk while their children have no milk at all. We wanted patent leather shoes and they are barefoot. The greatest tragedy is that sometimes those of my generation don’t remember our roots at all. We don’t think of the economically impoverished who live in our midst.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells a story about the distance that frequently separates the haves and the have-nots. The chasm separating the rich man and Lazarus began in their lifetimes. To enter or leave his home, the rich man had to pass Lazarus just as we pass the homeless on our way to shop, to dine in a restaurant or to celebrate the liturgy on Sunday morning. They walk our city streets; camp out in our parks and under the bridges. We pass them on the ramps leading to our highways. Like the Rich Man in the Gospel, we scarcely see them. The gap between us slowly becomes a chasm as we forget that we are members of the same family.

The words of the Prophet Amos cry out to us today. As we gather to celebrate the mercy of the Lord, we are reminded that the Lord will bring justice to the oppressed, give food to the hungry and set the prisoners free. We recall what it is to be the Church—those called to do God’s work in the world. Those who are oppressed, hungry, imprisoned and poor are our responsibility.

The American bishops have encouraged us to live with a “preferential option for the poor.” Today’s liturgy gives a Gospel perspective to our relationship with those less economically favored. Many of them, like Lazarus, have something to share with us—an unfailing faith that gives glory to the Lord. All we need to do is bridge the gap.

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