In today’s Gospel, a destitute Lazarus finds himself separated in life from the rich man by a doorway and the rich man’s inaction; in death, the rich man languishes in eternal torment, unable to reach Lazarus for the fiery chasm between them. There’s a temptation here to relish the rich man’s comeuppance—who doesn’t love a good story of just desserts?—but the truth is that we each contain a Lazarus and a rich man, and we do our best to keep them at arm’s length with our own slammed doors and fiery chasms.
What are your wounded parts, covered in sores, that you would rather not look at? What are those parts of you that you would just as soon relegate to eternal damnation if it meant you could be free of them? And when your deep shame clamors for your attention, do you respond by patiently tending the wounds and sharing the food at your table? Or do you turn up the volume on your headphones in an attempt to drown out the knocking and reinforce the barrier between you and your shame?
When we fail to tend our wounds with compassion, we often end up transmitting them onto others; entire societies that neglect their shame project it outward as oppression. We need only look at the U.S. prison industrial complex, which currently locks up more than two million human beings, disproportionately Black and Brown, to see this cycle in action. Consider, too, how our throwaway, consumer culture contributes to climate change as it simultaneously feeds our shame and sells us the anesthetics to avoid feeling it.
Today’s Gospel calls us to be bridges over the chasms that stand between us and our belonging in God’s web of life. This work asks us to recognize the ways that the very ruptures we seek to heal in the world play out in our interior life, and to turn toward these dynamics with compassion and curiosity. This is how the chasm becomes a threshold, a site of possibility and transformation. This is how we begin to heal.
- What ruptures in your interior life do you need to approach with compassion and curiosity?
- How can this act allow you to be an agent of possibility and transformation in the broader world?
Anna Robertson is director of youth and young adult mobilization for Catholic Climate Covenant. She is a writer, musician, yoga aficionado, and outdoor enthusiast with a passion for supporting the emergence of the widespread ecological conversion of hearts called for by Pope Francis in Laudato Si’. Prior to her current role, Anna has planned retreats in college campus ministry, supported families of women experiencing incarceration, studied collective memory in El Salvador, and accompanied college students on international immersion experiences in Latin America. She has her master of theological studies degree from the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry.