Mind the Gap
I enjoy metro systems. The one I’ve used the most is the one in London. When the doors open and people are going into the train car, a recorded voice says Mind the Gap. It’s reminding everybody to watch the gap between the platform and the car where there is just enough room for a foot to get caught and tragedy for a forgetful person.
In the Gospel today, Jesus tells the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus. This story is a mind the gap story, the most important such story of its kind. The real world situation is about a Rich Man who had it made, so to speak, many times over, and a poor man named Lazarus who was covered with sores. At that time there weren’t nice doors, like we have in Antigua, that could be closed and no one could see in. Instead there usually were large doors, maybe with a curtain, but open enough for someone to see in and see what was going on, especially during lavish dinners, etc. A hungry guy like Lazarus could just look in and drool at the scrumptious fare being served.
In order to get his point across, Jesus borrows a common folktale of the day about a poor man who dies and is taken to the bosom of Abraham where he finally finds comfort, and a rich guy who dies and is taken to Hades, a place of torment we would call hell. This is another reversal of fate that Jesus often talks about. The poor man, who struggled in life, finally finds true contentment, and the rich man who had everything, is left with nothing.
The rich guy implores Abraham to allow Lazarus to dip his finger in water and touch his tongue to cool it from the flames. Abraham declines, saying that there is achasm so great between Lazarus and the rich man that it simply is not possible. The rich man then implores help for his brothers so they might change their ways and not end up like him. Jesus explains that they already have Moses and the prophets and if they won’t listen to them, someone bringing a message from the dead, or someone rising from the dead won’t convince them or make a difference anyway.
So what’s Jesus trying to get across by telling this story? What he’s not trying to do is give us a description of the afterlife. This disappoints many that hope for a hell where all the bad people, except themselves of course, will be sent. No, this is a common folktale, kind of like Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol, about a self-centered Scrooge who finally changes his ways. Jesus is saying Mind the Gap between your comfortable life and those who have no comfort at all. Share. Show mercy. Give. Close the gap, now, on this earth, make a difference in your own time. After you die it will be too late.
This is the Gospel speaking to income inequality which is so evident in our time. This is the gap or chasm that matters right now. Now, I don’t know exactly what will happen when we die, or what the reversal of fortunes will look like, but I know I’ve been warned to mind the gap so I don’t fall. To know this now is Good News. I/We have time to repent and change my ways while I/We have time.
Saint Alban Episcopal Mission (English) meets for mass every Sunday at 10:00 A.M. (see welcome letter at sidebar) at Casa Convento Concepcion, 4a Calle Oriente No. 41, Antigua, Guatemala.