Last night I watched a beautiful film called “Hillbilly Elegy,” based on the memoirs of a man who grew up in Appalachia in the midst of much poverty. His family had many problems stemming from their lives of social inequality. But life was still a powerful force within insurmountable conditions. A determined grandmother helped him to become his best self by hard work, study, and determination.
The movie was certainly challenging to watch because it told a story familiar to millions and millions of people who live in a country and a world with such disparity and injustice. This story is “ever ancient ever new,” finding expression in the gospel story of the unnamed rich man and Lazarus, the beggar at his doorstep. Both individuals die, Lazarus lives in the warmth and love within Abraham’s bosom in paradise, while the rich man ends up in everlasting torment, a consequence of his ignoring the poverty of Lazarus.
It is so easy to become ignorant to the horrible life of poverty people are living, and they live not far from any of us who live lives of abundance. Not to mention the countless around the world who are hungry and homeless. The gospel will always be uncomfortable for us who own our homes, live in neighborhoods with good schools or can afford private education, have many options in which to buy food, drink water without much thought, spend lots of money on unnecessary possessions and have the ability to travel and dine out regularly at restaurants.
The unnamed rich man learned too late, and even in his place of torment, he was giving orders to Abraham!!!! There was no remorse or sorrow in his heart in any way shape or form. Hearts that are changed, cracked open, if you will, allow us to see the world in néw and broader ways. A change of heart and a change of mind go hand in hand. Lent and the daily life of a disciple of Christ is to see things differently so that we can change how we are living life.
Social justice begins within our own minds and hearts. And when each one of us looks hard in the mirror and sees a bit of that unnamed rich man in our own lives. What can I do to SEE the Lazarus in my life and not walk over him in indifference?”