Secularisation is creating a widening gulf. It is reducing the influence of religion in everyday life. There is a strong undertow. Many of us are drifting away from values inculcated from religious beliefs. Younger or future generations are threatened if you are looking from the point of religion. But from the point of an ever modernising secular material world they are being liberated with freedom of more choices.
A great gulf has developed and is widening. When you want to enter the modern material world, you are to leave your religion at its gate. “There was a rich man who used to dress in purple and fine linen and feast magnificently every day. And at his gate there lay a poor man called Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to fill himself with the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table.” (Today’s Gospel)
Reflecting on today’s message, the poor man Lazarus represents our religion or our faith. It is there sitting in a corner calling out to us every day while we are like the rich man going about our daily life. And like the rich man we are ignoring Lazarus at our gate. It is not so much about being rich with money but being rich with choices. Increasingly we are making choices that are taking us away from the conservative values of what religion has taught us.
“The almighty Lord says this: Woe to those ensconced so snugly in Zion.” (First Reading). Woe to those who live in luxury. Being materially rich is not a sin but material comfort can make us complacent. Without suffering there is no urgency for faith; Lazarus can remain in the corner. As we get more complacent we gradually forget to thank God for the little blessings in daily life. We depart from our faith and Lazarus dies at our gate.
One day this revelry of the material world will end as we will die too. We might end up on the other side of the gulf. ‘In his torment in Hades he looked up and saw Abraham a long way off with Lazarus in his bosom. So he cried out, “Father Abraham, pity me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in agony in these flames.”’ We have to account for what we have done in this life. “Between us and you a great gulf has been fixed, to stop anyone, if he wanted to, crossing from our side to yours, and to stop any crossing from your side to ours.”
For us who remain faithful to our faith or religion we too cannot leave the consequences of secularisation at our gates. We cannot be sitting and lamenting but we must rise to “fight the good fight of the faith”. “I put to you the duty of doing all that you have been told, with no faults or failures, until the Appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Second Reading). It is our duty to continue evangelising. We must change our approach and enter into the world of secularisation. It is time for this New Evangelisation.
In this world today, teaching religion by sharing intellectual knowledge alone is no longer effective. This modern day man seek experiences in the secular world to pleasure their life. And so it must be with their spiritual life. They need encounters and experience of faith. We are prophets sent urgently into the secular world to make real the presence of God through action beyond words. We are sent to make faith and religion an experience. Only then will the gulf stop widening.
26th Sunday in Ordinary Time