Whenever I give tours at St. Norbert Abbey, I am sure to point out the Great West Window in the church. This window depicts the Trinity, which encompasses the Tree of Life — representing the people of God. As I point out the Trinity — God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit — I remind those on tour that we are made in the image and likeness of God; our God who is Relationship. Thus, we ourselves are called into relationship with God and neighbor. We belong to each other and we are called to “pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience and gentleness” (1 Tm 6:11). However, we are often distracted from these life-giving responsibilities to our neighbor. We, like the people of Israel in the time of Amos, become “complacent … stretched out upon [our] couches” (Am 6:1, 4); like the rich man in today’s Gospel (Lk 16:19-31), we dress well and eat quite sumptuously. In our daily living, we can quite easily miss the poor man, the poor woman who dwells among us. As members of the body of Christ, we are called into relationship with the suffering.
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus reminds us that we belong to each other; Jesus is frequently moved with compassion and suffers with those who are grieving, hungry, sick (Lk 7:13, Mt 15:32, 14:14). Jesus, the Incarnate God, felt our pain as he walked upon the earth; he suffered with us and he was moved to action to teach, to heal, to love. This brings us back to the abbey window, where the image of the resurrected and glorified body of Christ has his hands fully outstretched revealing the wounds of his crucifixion. The wounded resurrected body of Christ reminds us that Christ continues to suffer with us today. In this Sunday’s parable, the rich man ignores the suffering Lazarus and realizes too late that they belong to one another. Thus, Jesus is calling all of us to open our eyes and hearts.
While she was living in Chicago, a good friend of mine was moved with compassion as she encountered homeless men and women. Unlike the rich man, Stephanie took the time to learn the names of the men and women on the street. She regularly prepared care packages for her friends and spent time getting to know them and their stories. She recognized the wounds of her brothers and sisters and she made sure that they realized that we — all of us — rich, poor, black, white, hungry, well-fed — belong to each other. Here in northeast Wisconsin, the poor, the hungry, the wounded may be a bit less obvious, but they are here dwelling among us. Allow yourself to be moved with compassion and reach out to the wounded among us.
Fr. Brennan, vocation director at St. Norbert Abbey, De Pere, earned Master of Divinity and Theology degrees from Catholic Theological Union, Chicago.