As I was preparing my homily my mind kept wandering back to the word CHASM.
One thought was of a Golf Hole on some golf course, somewhere in AZ that I played that was named THE CHASM – you had to hit your ball over it – a distance of a little more than a football field. No problem for these guys on TV – a little more intimidating for the likes of me.
From what I observed the Chasm devoured golf balls with voracity.
A second thought was the meaning of the word Chasm – any dictionary will offer a number of definitions e.g.
Gorge, Abyss, Canyon, Ravine, as in nature OR
Division, Gulf, Separation, Schism, Disunion, Breach, as in human nature, personal relationships, religion or politics.
So what about this GREAT CHASM that Christ talked about in His parable.
It divided Heaven and Hell – the netherworld ?
So clearly quite a bit wider than the Golf hole in AZ or indeed any Gorge or Canyon on Earth.
But the Rich Man, from his very tormented position could communicate and see Abraham in Heaven with Lazarus.
So this CHASM that Our Lord refers to in this parable is neither measured in distance nor in Human relationship terms BUT in the Spiritual Vacuum that separates-
those who live this life for their own self gratification – From those who live it for others.
Moreover – We have three Chasms in the One Parable:
1) The Chasm between Heaven and the netherworld.
2) The Chasm between the Rich and Poor
3) The Chasm between those who believe in Christ and act accordingly and those that don’t.
Let me return to the Chasm between Heaven and hell later because first I’d like to address the Second Chasm between the Rich man and Lazasrus:
The truly awful aspect of the Rich man’s behaviour is:
Not that he is lavishly dressed or
Is Gluttonous or indeed
That he lives in opulence – like those in Zion in the first reading who led on beds of ivory, ate and drank excessively – No the thing that Christ draws our attention to, is this.
The Rich man actually knows the starving, sore ridden, beggar who was at his door BY NAME – LAZARUS
From his tormented situation in the netherworld he cries out to Abraham – “send Lazarus….”
We can assume therefore that he has passed him by on many occasions and ignored him.
Knowing another’s name is an important aspect of any relationship, it offers a chance for intimacy / conversation – even a relationship.
But for the Rich man such knowledge was irrelevant – Lazarus was a beggar and he, the Rich man was too busy is his own self pursuit of hedonistic pleasures to bother with him
He violated Lazarus’s personal dignity in a cruel fashion !!!
UNTIL he dies and finds himself tormented in hell and he sees him with Abraham.
Now the Rich man begs for some relief – but its not forthcoming – The Chasm cannot be crossed!!
Then he asks Abraham to send Lazarus as Christs messenger to warn his family of what awaits them if they live as he did and do not repent.
And Abraham’s response :They have Moses and the Prophets, let them listen to them!!”
But the Rich man persists “… but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent”
And how does Abraham reply “If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead” REPEAT THIS!!
Not only is Jesus foretelling His own destiny but he refers also to the fact that he raised from the dead – the widow’s son at Nain, Jairus’s daughter and of course
Mary and Martha’s brother – also called Lazarus -incidentally the name Lazarus is derived from the Hebrew Eleazar – meaning “God has helped.”
Which brings me to the Chasm between the Believers in the Risen Christ and those who don’t.
When I conduct baptisms I note how the Parents, Godparents and family are given the responsibility to raise the baptised infants in Our Faith – And faith means believing what we do not, cannot, have not personally experienced – UNLIKE the men and women who lived and travelled with Jesus two thousand years ago.
Most of us here today have a blessed and privileged life compared to the vast majority around the world – The average median annual income, globally, is around $10.000 –
How we use our good fortune – to reach out to the poor, disadvantaged, sick, imprisoned etc. – or not – determines on which side of the eternal Chasm we will find ourselves.
In our lives Lazarus maybe the guys who cut your grass, or cleans your car, picks the produce you buy, avail themselves of our food pantry, picks up your trash, puts a new roof on your home, etc. etc.
Do we reach out to them?
Do we make an effort to find out their names? If so what do we do then?
How we act to those in need will be the criterion by which we are judged, not by merely attending mass and receiving Jesus.
However it is the very act of receiving Christ – “The Real Presence” that should conform us in the manner in which we treat the Lazarus’s we encounter in our lives.
So let me conclude by reviewing the three Chasms
1) The Chasm between those who believe in the Risen Christ and act as He taught us and those that don’t.
Believing means more than mass attendance – At the end of mass a Deacon has four options to dismiss yourselves.
Most often I will use the Words
Go in peace Glorifying the Lord by your life
Which brings me to the second Chasm
2) The Chasm between the Rich and Poor
We are to accept the blessings God has graciously bestowed upon us and reach across this chasm, and use these gifts to help the Lazarus’s of this world. It is what Christ calls us to do, it is our faith, it is our duty.
And of course the third chasm within Christ’s parable:
3) The Chasm between Heaven and Hell – the netherworld.
If we live our earthly lives on the right side of the first Chasm, accept our good fortune to be on the affluent side of the second and act accordingly – then – we will indeed live our eternal life on the Heavenly side of the greatest Chasm.
And as the Choir sings at our funeral masses
“May Choirs of angels welcome you and lead you to the bosom of Abraham: and where Lazarus is poor no longer, may you find eternal rest!”