Selfishness and Prejudice
Opening Question: What is your favorite toy you like to share with others? Have you known someone who would not share their toys with you? How did your feel when they did not share with you?
First Reading: Amos 6:1, 4-7.
“I want it now!” screamed Nancy. Even as a baby, Nancy learned if you scream loud enough, many people will give you what you want. And Nancy wanted it all: toys, nice clothes, junk food, and rides everywhere. Nancy always got her way because no one had the courage to tell her “No.”
But, one day, Nancy’s family had enough. They decided to get tough. So, the more she screamed, the more was taken away from her. First, the special privileges were gone. Then, the rides to school and soccer practice. Then the nice new clothes, when her old ones would do. Finally, the junk food was replaced by good food. Nancy found out that screaming may have gotten her way, but, in the end, no one liked her.
Nancy decided to be friendly. At first, everyone was suspicious of the “nice” Nancy. Did she really want to be a friend or was she just using people to get her way? Only time would tell.
We’ve all met selfish people. We’ve all met nice people. Selfish people are lonely; all they have is the things they own. But when those things are gone, what do they have left?
Bridging Questions: What qualities does a good friend have? What can you share with others to be a good friend? How can you be a good friend to those who are different?
Gospel: Luke 16:19-31
Jesus told his followers:
Once, there was a rich man. He dressed in fine clothes and threw expensive parties every day. There was also a poor man, named Lazarus, who laid begging at the gate of the rich man’s mansion. Lazarus was so hungry he dreamed of eating the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Lazarus had so many sores on his body, the dogs would come and lick them.
Soon, both men died. Lazarus went to heaven with Father Abraham. But the rich man was punished in hell. When the rich man looked up, he saw Father Abraham and Lazarus in the distance. “Father Abraham,” the rich man called out, “have mercy on me. Send Lazarus here so he can dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue. These flames are hurting me!”
“My child, remember! You took only the fine things in life,” Abraham replied, “while Lazarus suffered evil. Now, he enjoys heaven, and you suffer. Besides, there is a huge distance between you and me, so huge that no one could go from here to there even if he wanted to. And no one can go from where you are to here.”
“Then, please, Father!” the rich man begged Abraham. “Send Lazarus to my five brothers. He can warn them so they won’t come to this place of pain!”
“They have Moses and the prophets in the Bible,” Abraham responded. “Your brothers should listen to their words.”
“No, Father Abraham!” the rich man cried out. “If someone from the dead visits my brothers, they will turn back to God!”
“If they don’t hear the words of Moses or the prophets,” Abraham said, “how will they be convinced if someone rose from the dead?”
Three different children. Three different friends.
Alice lived in an apartment with her mother and three brothers. As the youngest child in the family, she had to share everything. Clothes, her bedroom, the phone, chores, the bathroom. But she was used to that. She helped her family as best she could. And she always shared with a smile.
Alice treated her friends in the same way. What was hers she shared with everyone. Alice was a good friend because she was nice, cheerful, and caring.
Jack lived in a huge house with his parents. Not only did he have his own room, he had the entertainment room almost to himself. He had a computer, a Play Station, a DVD player, and all the games and videos anyone would want. Jack had every reason to be selfish. But he wasn’t.
At school, Jack helped everyone in his class, even people who didn’t have as much as he did. Like Alice. On the weekends, many of his friends came over to play. Jack’s parents were always glad to see them. Jack was a good friend, not only because he shared everything he had with others, but because he did so freely.
Everyone saw Alice and Jack as the perfect friends. One did not have a lot of stuff to share. The other had much to share. Both were good friends, not because of their wealth, but because of their big hearts.
What happened to the third good friend? What happened to Mohammad?
Mohammad came to this country from the Middle East. His father was a doctor in his old country. Now, he works as a nurse until he gets his medical license. Mohammad and his family live in a small apartment. But with so many people coming and going, he doesn’t seem to have a space of his own. On Fridays, Mohammad and his family pray at the local mosque.
At home, Mohammad speaks Arabic, but, at school, he speaks English without trace of an accent. The people who know Mohammad well think highly of him. He’s as good a friend as Alice or Jack. Mohammad is kind, fair, and giving. But, people who don’t know him, ignore him. “He’s different. He’s dangerous. He can’t be trusted,” people whisper. They would think differently, only if they got to know him.
In the gospel, the rich man ignored Lazarus. But, imagine what would have happened if the rich man would have noticed Lazarus, and became his friends. How would the story be different?
Closing Questions: Do you know people like Lazarus or Mohammad? Do you know people that others ignore? How can you help them become your friends?