Last weekend, we had the joy of seeing Mother Teresa of Calcutta canonized by Pope Francis. Saint Teresa was known, even during her lifetime as “the saint of the poor.”
Latin American theology often speaks of seeing God in the eyes of the poor. St Vincent de Paul said that to serve the poor is a true form of prayer. The poor, whatever may be said of the deprivation they experience, are a privileged people in God’s plan.
This Sunday’s readings remind us to keep that vision before our eyes. Many people do. They always find time to assist the poor; they give generously of their time and resources; some serve directly in leaving home for other cultures. The history of the Church is rich in its expressions of outreach.
But the poor still suffer. They are crushed not only by neglect but by exploitation. The causes of poverty today are more elusive, more difficult to label. It frequently involves complex economic systems. But it is as merciless and cruel as the conduct of the rich man in this Sunday’s gospel eating sumptuously with a starving beggar at his gate.
We have God’s assurance that the lot of the poor will one day be altered. The unconcerned affluent will not have the final say. But we cannot wait for the final day. The rich man paid the price for not alleviating Lazarus’ pain while he lived, while the chance was there. We cannot ease our conscience by saying that one day the record will be set straight. “Now is the acceptable time.” “Carpe diem!” “Seize the day.”