Thursday of the Second Week of Lent
Wealth and poverty, by nowadays time
There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table … When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he cried out “Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames” . Abraham replied, “My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented. Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours”. Lk 16,19-31
On 2003 I was in Nairobi, a city in which all the contradictions and the social tensions of our time in Africa are intensified: a few rich and many poor people, extreme aggressiveness
and insecurity in the streets. The wealthy persons live in villas surrounded by high walls and protected by packs of hounds of the most aggressive breeds; outside, pickpockets and gangs of young street-arabs attack those who give the impression to bring with them something valuable. I have been also myself attacked by young people who snatched the golden crucifix, which my mother left to me before she died, from my neck. “Here are in jail all of them – said to me the Italian ambassador – the poor persons because they live in the prison of the poverty and the rich because they cannot leave their house”. Nairobi is the city which made me to reflect more on the problem of the inequalities and the social tensions of our time: from one side the poor people who do not accept their poverty, from the other the wealthy who defend the privileges of their social status with any means. It’s the hell on the earth. That afterlife abyss between who on earth was too rich and those too poor, mentioned in the today’s gospel, is constructed during the life, day after day. How can we reverse this diabolical trend where we think that what we have is only ours: wealth, privilege, intelligence, cultural traditions? On the other hand, how can we require, as it would be ours, what it is not ours? Remarkably, we’re not speaking only of the necessary. How can you give alms to a woman holding a puppet, pretending that he is a child, to move you to pity? It is the sin of the world that the man passes down from the father to the son like the DNA. We are facing a global and complex problem, which could only be addressed by the highest international bodies, if they had the needed authority and authoritativeness. At a personal level we can only open ourselves to a careful generosity and to the prayer.