Harvest time again and though I love Thanksgiving, I have to stand back from the bounty and think about what this means for me. Two things come to mind. One, I consider the parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus (Lk16:19-31). Two, I reflect on the passage of time.
As a middle-class citizen in the U.S., I must consider that I live in incredible wealth compared to many people in the world. I am, without really trying, the rich man. So do I have an inherent responsibility to the poor? After all, I didn’t make anyone poor. I haven’t cheated to get where I am. I’ve just been blessed. The interesting thing about the rich man parable isn’t that he did anything wrong, it’s that he failed to do what was right. I find it challenging to consider that not choosing to do something, is a choice. A choice with consequences. Choosing not to brush my teeth will lead to tooth decay. Not caring for the poor will result in untold suffering. So, yes, by the fact of my wealth, I do have a responsibility to the poor. Can’t I thrust that responsibility upon the governments and the churches of the world, insisting that they are better able to meet the needs of the suffering poor? Notice that it wasn’t Rome condemned by Jesus for heartlessness, but rather individuals. It always comes down to individuals. Who knows better the needs of a soul than another soul? Who knows better the needs of a human being than a human being?
And so the days and seasons move along their usual course. But time not only passes, it records too. The past is not so dead as we like to think. The past speaks of what we have done and what we have failed to do. Each generation either thanks or curses the generation before for what they have bequeathed to them. When one doubts this objective truth, consider the stigma of Nazi Germany, the horrors of Rwanda, the atrocities of ISIS…the list goes on. Or think about the inspirational lives of Mother of Teresa, Albert Schweitzer, Martin de Porres…this list goes on too. Thank God. History tells its tales of villains and heroes.
I can’t help but add that this world, the one of annual grain harvests, is only a piece of a much larger picture. There is a world after this one. For those who lived and died in poverty and pain, there will be recompense. For those who lived and died in self-absorbed wealth and prosperity, there will be recompense. Perhaps God doesn’t judge us in our worldly understanding, for He may not have to. Perhaps He allows us to see what we failed to do, the suffering that we could have eased, the joy we could have brought, the charity we could have lived, but did not.
So what will I harvest today?