Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost
A Cry For Mercy
Just a few verses prior to today’s Gospel, we read that some Pharisees had “sneered at Jesus.” In reply Jesus said, “You are the ones who justify your-selves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.” In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus then paints a bleak picture for those without mercy. The rich man proudly flaunted his abundance as a badge of honor and seems to have ignored Lazarus’s pain daily. He had repeatedly walked right past a man covered with sores. Unknowingly, he had created for himself a self-imposed, deadly torment in Hades (the land of the dead). He had killed his soul. Then he, who had denied mercy to Lazarus, desperately cried out for mercy himself.
How do those of us living in abundance today respond to those who are hungry, to strangers, to those who are sick, to the “least of these”? Do we sneer at them? Ignore them? Make them into props for political posturing? How do we respond to those who differ in matters of public policy? Do we sneer at them? Ignore them? Resort to religious or political posturing? Wasn’t Jesus also showing mercy toward the Pharisees? He cared deeply for their souls and offered life-giving invitations to repentance.
There are 795 million people suffering from hunger in the world today, with nearly half of all deaths of children under five years old being due to poor nutrition.* There are countless perspectives on what our response to them should be. Is not the way of Jesus to turn from apathy, disdain, or posturing, and use our energy for acts of mercy and justice in his name? May our response to all be a witness to God’s mercy and justice.
Jeff Coppage, pastor, Covenant Moravian Church, York, Pennsylvania
*Approximately 795 million people in the world are chronically malnourished. That number is down 167 million over the past decade and 216 million less than in 1990-1992. Source: FAO, The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2015.