Luke 16:19-31, 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Noong nakaraang Martes po, sumakay ako ng jeep papuntang LRT station para magpa-renew ng passport sa Cubao. Siksikan na sa jeep, pasado alas-nwebe ng umaga. “Bayad po,” I called out, stretching my arm as far as it could go, since I was seated 6 people away from the driver. Now, sitting 2 people away from the driver was this young teenage guy, Generation Z, senior-high? He was wearing a high school uniform,and. these huge, baby-blue, padded headphones sitting on his heavily gelled hair. With eyes shut halfway, he bobbed his head up and down to music playing in his own private world. “Typical teenager,” I thought, “he probabaly couldn’t be bothered to pass my ten pesos to the driver.” To my surprise, though, he reached over to get my coin, and gave it to the driver, and even passed the change over to me—all this while his eyes were half-shut, and his head bobbing up and. down. To my even greater surprise, he ended up being the only one who cared enough to pass other people’s coins along to the driver and their change back over to them! You really can’t judge a book by its cover. I was very impressed!
You know, sisters and brothers, whenever the parable of the rich man and Lazarus comes around, many of us, Catholics, think that the whole point of the story is to describe what heaven and hell are like. But mostly hell: that accdg to the parable, hell is hot, and people there are eternally thirsty, and they’re the wealthy but greedy in life, and nothing, absolutely nothing could ever make life in hell better for the sufferers, not even God.
But that’s not the point of the parable. In fact, the true message of the parable is lost on us when we insist that it’s all about heaven and hell and who’s there and not there. If that’s what we think the parable is about, sisters and brothers, then I’m afraid, we don’t get it…
…Because the loudest message the parable makes is that God loves the poor of this earth, and that God loves them in ways you and I may never fully fathom.This is not just a “biblical theory.” That God loves the poor is clearly supported by everything that Jesus did and said all his life. He spent the last 3½ years of his life alleviating the suffering of the poor. You can read the Gospels left and right, up and down, sideways, hindi pomaaaring ikaila o bale-walain ninuman ang isa sapinakamalalim na katangian ng Diyos: that God loves the poor, and that God loves those who help the poor. You can read the Gospels left and right, up and down, sideways, hindi po natin maikakaila na kautus-utusanpo ng Panginoon na tulungan at damayan po natin ang mga dukha, sa anumang paraang hindi ikasisira ng sarili nating buhay.
I know, none of us here are multi-billionaires. We don’t have thousands of money to help the poor in anyhuge way. Nung biyernes nga lang, nung nagpapatilaako ng ulan sa Ateneo, nakausap ko ang isa naming janitor. May dengue ang anak, 17 years. old. Umakyat nasa utak ang virus, kaya nagse-seizure ang dalaga. Mag-iisang buwan na sa ICU, patak ng patak ang metro. Kada–turok ng gamot, 19K pesos. Eh, kailangan14 injections. Nakaka–dal’wa pa lang, 38K pesos na‘yon. ‘Yun ‘yung mga panahong winish–ko–lang nasana pinanganak akong kaangkan ng Zobel de Ayala, kahit isang araw lang. Yung 19K pesos-times-14, gasino lang siguro ‘yun sa mga bilyonaryo. Pero walaakong naiabot kay manong. Ni pamasahe sa tricycle, hindi ako nagdala. Pero hindi siya nanghihingi ng pera. Nag-hinga lang ng bigat ng loob. Pero ang sama-sama ng loob kong wala akong maiabot sakanya, ni singkong duling!
Coming back to my point of us not being billionaires; you know, sisters and brothers, God isneither unreasonable nor sadistic. He knows most of us can help the poor only so much, because unlike multi-billionaires, we have our own poverty to deal with.And God knows that. He knows everything. But we don’t have to be filthy rich to help God’s poor. Jesus showed in his life that helping the poor will have a lot to do with our eternal salvation or damnation. Never mind what heaven and hell look like and feel like, sisters and brothers. That’s not the most important thing. That God loves the poor, and God loves those who help the poor—that is the more important lesson. God will save the poor. And God will save those who help them.
Medyo napailing lang ako doon sa mayaman sakuwento. He was given all the resources and all the chances in his life to help the poor. And it wasn’t like the poor was far away. Lazarus was just outside his door! But the rich man? He couldn’t be bothered. So, in a reversal of fortune, he ends up in hell, and Lazarus ends up with God. But, see, dito ako napailing: even in hell, the rich man still thought he could use his connections to save his relatives. At sinong koneksyonniya? Ang pobreng Lazarus na binale-wala niya sabuhay. Medyo makapal din ano? ‘Yan po ang hirap samga taong ubod ng yaman. Akala nila, pati kabilángbuhay, napupulitika, nakukuha sa kone-koneksyon.Like many rich and powerful people today, this rich man didn’t get it. He didn’t get it in life despite his enormous wealth. He still didn’t get it in death despite his poverty.
When the jeep I was riding to LRT was halfway up Bonifacio, a mother with her toddler child came up the jeep. The toddler walked down the jeep, putting empty envelopes on our laps. Someone reached for his worn-out wallet, got a 20-peso bill, and gave it to the child. Do you know who? Same guy. Mr Baby–Blue Headphones—who bobbed his head up and down, with his eyes half-shut. He whom I thought was lost in his own world, he got it. God loves him. Because Mr Baby-Blue Headphones, he gets it.