The story of Lazarus and the Rich Man in Luke chapter 16 may appear distant to us due to its graphic description of dogs licking the sores of Lazarus. Today, we live in a world in which we do not encounter abject poverty or if we do, we have become desensitized to it. We may recognize the problem, but we feel that the problem is too big for us to solve.
Global prosperity in terms of material wealth is the highest it has ever been in the history of humanity. Technological advances and global trade have created the wealthiest society in terms of cumulative wealth of nations. We have wealth in the stock market, we have comfortable homes, we have a wide choice of food in our kitchens, we have sleek gadgets that entertain us, and we have nice cars to take us around town. Life in the 21st century is a blessing from God.
However, inequality between the rich and the poor has been rising rapidly for the past several decades. More recently, the working-class and middle-class have been squeezed by the economic uncertainties brought by COVID-19, while the upper-class has largely been unaffected. Over the long-term future, technology is forecast to eliminate numerous jobs for the working-class which will further preclude them from participating in the economy. The environment is suffering from our over consumption of resources and lax attitude toward keeping our land, air, and water clean.
At this critical time, we reflect on our role as stewards of God’s creation and as messengers of the kingdom of God. How is God inviting us to live the Gospel message that exhorts us to care for the least among us? How can we model our lives on the lives of the early Christians, who distributed goods fairly among all? How can we be prophetic voices that inspire positive changes in our political and financial systems?
Daniel Mascarenhas, SJ
Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network (United States & Canada)