Spirituality of the Readings
Beds of Ivory
A wise man came to a banquet, dirty and dressed in rags. He made his way among the beautifully dressed guests. But the host noticed him and scolded his sloppy appearance. He told the man to go dress properly.
This the prophet did. He bathed in a river and dressed in the finest clothing he could borrow. When he returned he was warmly welcomed and even honored!
But then someone noticed him sitting in a corner playing with the food from his plate. The host was again summoned and demanded to know why the man was putting all his food, spoon by spoon, into the sleeve of his fine garment!
The man answered, “I am not the one who was invited to the banquet; obviously it is my clothes that were. So I am giving them what a guest should receive!”
Couldn’t we say that the host was ignoring what was precious in favor of the mundane. We need to ask ourselves which is more important to us, the human person or the luxuries of life by which he or she is surrounded?
A second example: look at the Gospel for Sunday, in which a rich man died. There had been a poor wretch lying at his door starving and he had ignored the man entirely. Yet now, the poor man was in heaven, cradled in the bosom of Abraham, while the rich man was agonizing in hell. Where were his fine food and fine clothes now? He had been like the complacent people in Zion,
lying on beds of ivory. … They eat lambs taken from the flock and calves from the stall! … They drink wine from precious bowls and anoint themselves with the best oils. … (First Reading)
God replied, “Their wanton revelry shall be done away with,” and now in the Gospel we see what he meant.
Are you and I helping to overlook the plight of the world’s people as we stretch on our couches and anoint ourselves with television shows?
If you live in the “First World,” in the main culture of the United States for example, the amount of self-indulgence and coddling we receive every single day far surpasses anything described in these stories. Our small population uses a tremendous portion of the world’s decreasing resources. Are you and I helping to overlook the plight of the world’s people as we stretch on our couches and anoint ourselves with television shows?
The rich man cries out,
Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.
He was not asking help for the people he had neglected during his life, but for himself! It was too late to send help to his brothers! His death had given him what he enjoyed all his life, only now we see that it was empty relationships with others!
What will it take for you and me to open our eyes to those who need us, who lack the love of God as channeled through us? Will we notice them if they are dressed well enough? Will we be persuaded if, as Abraham says in our Gospel, “someone should rise from the dead”?
Or will we open up right now to the love God has for each of us and for our neighbors, all the ones for whom he rose from the dead?
John Foley, SJ
**From Saint Louis University