Ah – one of the most challenging parables that Jesus tells – the story of the rich man and Lazarus. (Side note – this is not the same Lazarus as in the raising-from-the-dead story, but its still interesting that this is the only parable where one of the characters is named). It is a challenging parable because it raises the question of whether this is a literal depiction of the afterlife, of how and why people are judged and so forth. For me, though, its probably coming through the lens of what I am already thinking about with next week – the challenge of really seeing. In this parable, it says that Lazarus would lay outside the gate of the rich man’s house and that he was covered in sores. Playing with this a bit and reading in between the lines, I wonder how often the rich man would walk out of the gate with his head turned the other way, deliberately choosing to not see Lazarus. Or how often the rich man would actually look in Lazarus’ direction but would not truly see him. His eyes and brain might register that Lazarus is there, but it didn’t go beyond just a recognition and into any measure of compassion.
Seeing but not seeing. Reminds me of the times that my wife says to me, “You aren’t hearing me” when she is trying to tell me something important and its clearly not registering with me. Seeing but not seeing. That is so easy to do isn’t it? It is so easy to just have our focus on what we choose to focus on rather than being open to what the Spirit might lead us to focus upon. I can put on my blinders and not see the opportunities around me for witness and compassion and care. Or I can pray for those blinders to be removed and I see things in a far wider sense.
It is like what I am experiencing now as I take our puppy on hikes and walks. Like all dogs, she is a sniffer but I think Scout is even more so – she’s a mix of a coonhound and a beagle, so her nose is going ALL the time. So, as we walk, it sometimes feels like we walk 15 feet, stop for a minute while she sniffs something, walk another 15 feet, stop to sniff, etc. I know that there is something in the training for her to know that when we are walking/hiking, then that’s what we are doing, but I also want to give her the opportunity to do what she naturally will do – sniff, sniff, and sniff some more. And there are times that it frustrates me because I want to get where I want to go and she digs her paws in like “Nope, not yet.” There’s a learning in that for me – its slowing me down and maybe looking at what she seems to be interested in or just using that time to look around on my own and see what I might not otherwise see.