Updated: Oct 16, 2019
1. Dorothy Day was a convert to the Catholic faith; and a devoted one.
a. Nevertheless, as she practiced the faith
i. that transformed her life,
b. she did not give up her critical mind.
2. When she read the lives of the saints for example.
a. Dorothy the convert loved how they cared for the poor, sick, outcast members of society.
b. And yet Dorothy the social and cultural radical asked
i. “Why was so much done remedying evil instead of avoiding it in the first place?
ii. Where were the saints to try to change the social order,
1. not just to minister to the slaves, but to do away with slavery?”
3. Questions like that should drive us to ask similar ones;
a. not just about Church but about ourselves.
b. Why does the Church choose as saints those who tend to the poor victims of society,
i. rather than seek to change the society that victimizes them?
c. And why does that never seem to bother us?
4. A cynic might answer
a. that the answer to the first question is that the Church is an active part of the victimization,
b. And that the answer to the second question is that, as members of the Church, so are we.
5. But I think the answer is a little more basic.
a. We all know the answer; we feel it.
b. Every time we walk past a person asleep on the street.
c. Every time we avoid the glance of a beggar on the subway.
d. Or change the channel when the photos begin of cold, hungry children, begging for help.
6. The feeling isn’t a desire to victimize them.
7. It's a desire to ignore them.
8. It’s resignation.
9. We look around
a. and the problems are so vast,
b. and their causes so complicated,
c. that we resign ourselves to the fact that things are just the way they are.
10. The Church seems to share in that resignation,
a. choosing saints who care for the poor,
b. but seldom questioning the society that causes their suffering.
11. And though we may not notice it, the poor share in that resignation too,
a. They resign themselves to the fact that they will never be anything else but poor.
12. Resignation; the willingness to accept the way things are
a. as the way they are supposed to be
b. and the way they always shall be.
13. Most of us would call this resignation realistic.
14. Jesus however would have called it something else.
15. We know this because of the story he tells about a rich man and a poor beggar named Lazarus.
a. Every day the rich man walks past poor Lazarus, begging at his door.
b. When they die, the rich man is tormented
c. and across a vast chasm established between them Lazarus is comforted.
16. This is one of the most famous parables of Jesus.
a. It is also one of his most infamous,
b. because for millennia it has been used to
c. to scold the rich into giving more,
d. scold the comfortable into caring more,
e. scold us all into to doing something more to make the lives of the poor bearable.
17. Because of course what is sinful in this story is the lack of charity.
a. But what if it weren’t?
18. What if we focus so much on the evil rich man that we miss the sin
a. that sits both symbolically as well as physically in the center of the story?
1. It is the chasm.
2. In this world the rich man and Lazarus are separated by the chasm of resignation.
a. That willingness to accept the way things are
i. as the way they are supposed to be
ii. and the way they always shall be.
3. In the underworld the rich man finds himself once again separated from Lazarus by a chasm
a. But when the rich man begs Abraham to let Lazarus to do for him in death
b. what he was could have, but was unwilling to do for Lazarus in life,
i. cross the chasm and comfort him in his suffering,
4. Abraham does not scold the rich man, he simply reminds him
a. “between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to gofrom our side to yours or from your side to ours.”
5. It is sadly ironic; in the afterlife the chasm is one of resignation too;
a. Abraham says that the rich man MUST be resigned to his suffering –
i. for NOW there IS no changing it.
6. But if we focus on what Abraham says
a. We miss what Jesus implies:
i. That It is in the afterlife the chasm is established.
ii. in this life it is not.
b. although the chasm of resignation is uncrossable in death
c. we can do what is in death is impossible; we can cross that chasm.
7. In fact this is what Jesus implores his hearers to do;
a. cross the chasm of resignation in this life.
8. Dorothy Day heard him
a. Its what drove her to challenge the resignation of so many to the plight of the poor
b. and found houses of hospitality
c. where the poor workers in cities could not only be cared for,
i. but empowered to change their lives.
d. It was the way in which the Catholic Worker movement was born.
9. Sometimes our church leaders hear him too;
a. For though they have canonized many people
i. who have ministered to the victims in our world
ii. without challenging those who do the victimizing,
b. They may one day soon canonize Dorothy Day.
10. And today we hear him too.
a. And yet if we hear his parable as a plea to throw a dollar at a beggar as we hurry down the subway steps
i. Rather than question why the beggar is begging in the first place.
b. If we hear it as a scold about our lack of charity
i. Rather than as a challenge of a world in which such charity is needed.
11. Then we misheard him every bit as much as Lazarus and for that matter his brothers, misheard the prophets in their day.
12. For Jesus isn’t challenging how we give; he is challenging how we live;
13. He is challenging our resignation.
a. Because when we hear his challenge
i. and allow it to affect
ii. how we see the events in our world and how we respond to them
iii. How we see the policies of our government and how we vote on them
iv. How we see the behavior of our church and its leaders and how we react to them.
b. We cross that chasm.
14. Because according to Jesus, just because things are the way they are in this world.
a. Doesn’t mean that God wants them to be.
b. And thus, doesn't mean that they have to be.
c. They can change. But that change starts with us.