The Things We Don’t Do

4 March 2010 Thursday of the 2nd Week of Lent
Jeremiah 17, 5-10; Psalm 1, 1-6; Luke 16, 19-31


The parable speaks of the sin of omission. The rich man was punished, not because of what he did, but what he did not do. A close reading of the parable precisely illustrates it: the parable describes both characters. A rich man in indolent self-indulgence. And a destitute at the door waiting for the crumbs from the rich man’s table. You see, during the time of Jesus, there were no knives, forks, spoons or napkins to wipe away the grease and the grime from the food. People ate with their hands, and in very affluent families, the hands were cleanse by wiping them on hunks of bread. And this is what Lazarus desired to have. The rich man never stood up to share his meal. But he did fix his eyes on this man at the gate: he knew his name. He said, “Father Abraham, have pity on me, and send Lazarus to me that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue.”

I guess in a doing-community such as ours, we might forget, that despite our personal belief that we are doing many things, and our intellectual stature do not allow any omissions, we might have to have second thoughts. To do what is required or what we think we should do, might neglect those at the periphery of our vision. We might not give our attention to those who do not have use to us. We might ignore those who are quiet enough not to steal the limelight from us.

There are many things vying for our attention. Ads that promises to make us gorgeous for a long time. Gadgets that would make our lives easier and more efficient. And like the rich man, we gorge on them. To zone out, we only need earphones. It is therefore easier to neglect the Lazaruses of the present. In the Philippines, the Metro-Guwapo Project masks the poor away from our attention. We omit those who wait for our crumbs at the gate. As the responsorial psalm say that these are the people who hope in the Lord. Because the affluent have others to hope for.

Perhaps, if we learn from this simple parable, then perhaps in the next life, we do not have to worry about the great abyss that separates the sheep and goats. We will be too busy eating together at one table that the great divide do not deserve our least attention.

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