Not Seeing the Poor

In today’s Gospel from St. Luke, Jesus tells the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, which opens like this:

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. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.

The rich man, I suspect, got to the point that he didn’t even see Lazarus. He would just pass by or over him day after day as he went about his business, enjoying all that his wealth brought him.

I mentioned in a post I wrote several days into Lent that I had constructed a list of daily practices to undertake during the 40 days of Lent. The practices include praying for particular things, giving away money or books our household items, doing positive acts for others.

A week ago Monday, my practice for the day was to purchase several gift certificates from a local food establishment to give to homeless persons. I went to the Davanni’s Pizza near the law school, purchased the gifts certificates and put them in my coat pocket to give away when the occasion arose.

It is now eleven days since I purchased the gift certificates and they are still in my coat pocket, since I haven’t seen any homeless person in the interim to give them to. The thing is, there are plenty of homeless persons wandering the streets of downtown Minneapolis. But I never see them; I go from the parking lot through the skyway to my office in the law school and when I do venture out from the law school during the day it is usually through the skyway.

The question that arose when I read today’s Gospel is: am I any less blind than the rich man in the parable? If my life is so constructed so that I never come face-to-face when the poor who are right around me, aren’t I just as bad as he is?

I think I need to go take a walk today to encounter someone who might benefit from my gift certificates. They sure aren’t doing any good in my coat pocket.