The gate that becomes a chasm first exists in our hearts before it can exist between us.
Today’s gospel from Luke invites us to look at the parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus. Throughout this parable, chasms are the one constant divide. On one side of the gate lies Lazarus, covered in sores and open wounds, hungry and unable to get up and walk. On the other side is the rich man, dressed in fine linen and purple, sitting at his table and feasting every day. A chasm is also reflected in eternal life. On the one side of this chasm now sits Lazarus, comforted at the bosom of Abraham. On the other side is the rich man, standing in torment in the flames of Hades.
The gate and the chasm represent the same thing: division and separation. The chasm that separates Lazarus and the rich man in the next world is simply a manifestation of the gate that separated them in this world. The rich man has now carried it with him into eternal life. It has become the deepest part of him. The gate that separates and divides are the categories we place ourselves and others in: rich or poor, black or white, gay or straight, Muslim or Christian, or any other category we might add to the list. That gate is a condition of the human heart. The gate that becomes a chasm exists first in our hearts before it can exist between us and another.
Throughout scriptures, God’s presence is uniquely revealed in the lives of men and women who share God’s concerns and seek to act as God acts. God is always concerned about the poor, marginalized, hurting, the broken hearted, and expects us to be concerned as well. We are all called to help the poor, feed the hungry, house the homeless, care for the sick, visit prisoners and work for justice, because that’s simply who and what God expects us to be and do. The question isn’t what’s in it for me, but what’s in it for others.
We must each examine our own heart to find the gates that separate us from ourselves, our neighbors, our enemies, those we love and ultimately God. What are those gates for you? For me? For this parish? For the United States of America? What gates do we live with? Fear, anger, greed, pride, prejudice, loneliness, sorrow, addiction, busyness, indifference, apathy, hurt, resentment, envy, cynicism? There are a lot of possibilities for the gates within each one of us. We all have them. That’s not how we are intended to live as Christians. That’s certainly not how Jesus lived.
Every time we love our neighbor as ourselves, every time we love our enemies, every time we see and treat one another as created in the image and likeness of God, gates are opened and chasms are filled. Love is something we are called to live our way into. Love is a choice set before us every day. It can happen in our marriages and families, at work and school and in our prayers for the world. Love can happen in the most intimate of relationships, with strangers, and even with our enemies. It is hard work, but it is possible. Jesus demonstrated love in his life, death and resurrection. Gates were opened and chasms were filled. Christ’s love, mercy, grace and presence make it possible for us to open our gates and insure they do not become chasms.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, may all our gates be opened and our chasms filled. This is the work you call us to do for the salvation of the world. It is what your kingdom of God looks like. We already have everything we need in you and from you. That was Abraham’s point in not sending Lazarus to the rich man’s brothers. Abraham was not denying them anything. Nothing was lacking. They already had everything they needed as well. Your “Word” opens gates and fills chasms. It is the same “Word” that was proclaimed by Moses and the prophets, and the same “Word” embodied in the person of Jesus Christ. Lord Jesus, you are the image of an opened gate and a filled chasm. May the image of who we most truly are and who we are to become remain always in our hearts and minds. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.