“I would like to ask you to pray for the Authorities: they must decide and often they decide measures that people don’t like, but it’s for our own good. And many times, an Authority feels alone, not understood. Let us pray for our rulers who must take decision on these measures: may they feel accompanied by the people’s prayer.”
This was Pope Francis’ petition today, March 12, 2020, during the fourth Mass at Saint Martha’s broadcast live, given the Coronavirus pandemic. Earlier, he exhorted to continue praying together “for the sick, for family members, for parents with children at home . . . “
Not Fall into Indifference
Then, in his homily, the Holy Father commented on today’s Gospel about the rich man and the poor man named Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), exhorting not to remain indifferent in face of the tragedy of hungry children, of the people on countries’ borders in search of freedom, fleeing from hunger and war, who only find a wall.
So, the Pontiff said, “we live in indifference: indifference is the tragedy of being well-informed but not feel others’ reality. This is the chasm – he chasm of indifference,” he said.
Therefore, the Pope exhorted to ask God for “the grace not to fall into indifference, the grace that all the information we have on human sufferings may come down to our hearts and move us to do something for others.”
Here is a Zenit translation of the transcription of the Pope’s homily made by the Italian edition of “Vatican News.”
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The Holy Father’s Homily
This account of Jesus is very clear, but it might seem like a story for children: it’s very simple. With it, Jesus not only wants to point out an event but the possibility that the whole of humanity lives like this, including the possibility that we all live like this. <There are> two men, one is satisfied, dressed well, perhaps he sought the greatest stylists of the time to dress him. He used clothes made of purple and fine linen. And then, he had a good time because, every day, he enjoyed rich banquets. So, he was happy. He didn’t worry, he took some precautions – perhaps some pills for the banquets’ cholesterol, but life was going well. He was tranquil.
On his doorstep was a poor man. His name was Lazarus. <The rich man> knew the poor man was there, he knew it, but he thought it was natural. “I’m well and he . . . but so is life. Let him fend for himself.” At most, perhaps — the Gospel doesn’t say so — he sometimes sent something, some crumbs. And so, the life of these two went by. Both passed through the Law <that touches> all of us: to die. The rich man died and Lazarus died. The Gospel says that Lazarus was taken to Heaven, to Abraham’s bosom. Of the rich man, it only says “He was buried.” Period, and it ends.
There are two things that are surprising: the fact that the rich man knew there was a poor man, and that he knew his name — Lazarus., but it made no difference; it seemed natural to him. The rich man probably also engaged in businesses that, in the end, were against the poor. He knew this well; he was informed on this reality. And the second thing that moves me so much are the words “great chasm,” which Abraham says to the rich man: “there is a great chasm between us, we can’t communicate, we can’t go from one side to the other.” It’s the same chasm that existed in life between the rich man and Lazarus: the chasm didn’t begin there; the chasm began here.
I thought of the tragedy of this man, the tragedy of being very, very informed, but with a closed heart. The information of this rich man didn’t reach his heart; he was unable to be moved, unable to be moved in face of the tragedy of others. Neither could he call one of the boys that served in the dining room and say: “but bring him this, or that . . . “It’s the tragedy of information that doesn’t reach the heart. This happens to us also. We all know –, because we have heard it on the news or seen it in newspapers, how many children suffer hunger in the world today; how many children don’t have the necessary medicines; how many children can’t go to school. There are Continents with this tragedy, we know it. Alas, poor little things . . . and we go on with our lives. This information doesn’t reach the heart and many of us, many groups of men and women live in this detachment between what they think, what they know and what they feel: their heart is disconnected from their mind. They are indifferent, just as the rich man was indifferent to Lazarus’ pain. The chasm of indifference exists.
In Lampedusa, when I went there for the first time, this phrase came to me: the globalization of indifference. Perhaps we are worried today, here, in Rome, because “it seems that the stores ate closed, I need to go and buy that, and it seems I can’t go for a walk every day, and it seems that . . . “I am preoccupied about my things. And we forget the hungry children, we forget those poor people on countries’ borders, in search of freedom, those forced migrants that flee from hunger and war, and only find a wall, an iron wall, a wire wall, but a wall that doesn’t let them cross over. We know that this exists, but it doesn’t reach our heart. We live in indifference: indifference is the tragedy of being well informed but of not feeling others’ reality. This is the chasm, the chasm of indifference.
Then there is something else that calls one’s attention. Here we know the name of the poor man, we know it: Lazarus. Even the rich man knew it, because when he was in hell, he asked Abraham to send Lazarus: he recognized him there. “But send this for me.” However, we don’t know the name of the rich man.
The Gospel doesn’t tell us the name of the gentleman. He had no name. He had lost his name: he only had the adjectives of his life. Rich, powerful . . . he had many adjectives. This is what egoism does to us: it makes us lose our true identity, our name, and it leads us only to value the adjectives. Worldliness helps us in this. We have fallen into the culture of adjectives where your value is what you have, what you can do . . . But not, “what’s your name?” You have lost your name. Indifference leads to this, to lose one’s name. We alone are the rich, we are this, we are that. We are the adjectives.
Let us ask the Lord today for the grace not to fall into indifference; the grace that all the information on human sufferings that we have, may come down to our heart and move us to do something for others.[Translation by Virginia Forrester]