Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Removing the Costumes of our Roles



Dear Parish Faithful,

St. John Chrysostom had many insights into our lives as Christians based on the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man, beyond the one I shared in Monday’s meditation.  His homilies are very rich, and he had an extraordinary gift of uncovering multiple layers of meaning from within a given scriptural text.  He combined this with lively and insightful commentary based on his own contemporary world, drawing analogies that would bring the scriptures to life for his flock.  One clear theme in the parable is that of our fate after death, meaning the judgment we will face based upon how we led our lives.  Within the context of analyzing this parable, the judgment will determine who is truly “wealthy,” and who is truly “poor.”  The rich man was condemned and Lazarus was received into the bosom of Abraham.  This may challenge a more conventional notion of God’s judgment, and St. John was determined to explore this further. Though a fierce critic of the theatre in his day (the theater was notorious for its immorality) St. John drew a probing analogy based on its mode of operation and our own life stories in order to draw out the implications of life, death and judgment.  Wealth and poverty can be very relative distinctions in this world and thus far removed from their ultimate meaning. The following passage is from one of the homilies collected in the book On Wealth and Poverty:

Just as in the theatre, when evening falls and the audience departs, and the kings and generals go outside to remove the costumes of their roles, they are revealed to everyone thereafter appearing to be exactly what they are; so also now when death arrives and the theatre is dissolved, everyone puts off the masks of wealth or poverty and departs to the other world.  When all are judged by their deeds alone, some are revealed truly wealth, others poor, some of high class, others of no account.

St. John appears to be asking each of us who takes the Gospel seriously – just who are you really underneath the various roles that you take on in this life? Strip away those roles and what will be revealed?  Another meaningful way, indeed, of approaching the issue of wealth and poverty!

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