Father Abraham, have pity on me. (Luke 16:24)
What’s in a name? Quite a lot, actually. Think about people who never seem able to remember your name. You notice, don’t you? By contrast, when someone calls you by your name, it helps you feel connected, valued, cared for.
So it’s interesting that the parable in today’s Gospel reading is the only parable in which one of the characters—the poor beggar, Lazarus—is actually named. The prodigal son, the vineyard owner, the sower with his seeds—none of these is named. Even the rich man in the story remains anonymous. Only Lazarus is dignified in this way.
Why Lazarus? Most likely it’s because of the special place that the poor have in God’s heart. God loves all his creation. He knows every person by name, and he wants to see us live in a way that affirms our common dignity. He wants us to build a society that supports the health and well-being of everyone. So when that didn’t happen for Lazarus in the story, God righted the injustice by bringing him right “to the bosom of Abraham” (Luke 16:22). This parable shows us how deeply grieved God is by the injustices that reduce his children to beggars longing in vain for scraps from their more fortunate neighbors.
We all know that as a society we must care for the poor and needy in our midst. But beyond simply providing for their physical needs, God is calling us into his heart for the poor. He is calling us to see everyone, even the poorest and most desperate, as our brothers and sisters—and to treat them with the dignity they all deserve.
Our heavenly Father doesn’t express his love in generalities, and neither should we. This is why the Lenten practice of almsgiving is so important. Helping out at a food bank, visiting those in a nursing home or in prison, participating in a clothing drive—these are just a few ways that we can reach out and touch our needy brothers and sisters. These are just a few ways that we can learn that we are all one in the Lord.
“Jesus, give me your heart for the Lazaruses in my life. Help me to see them as my brothers and sisters, your precious children. Lord, melt my heart!”
From the WORD among us, Meditations for Catholics