I peel my eyelids open and there my three-year-old stands, naked and ashamed. Daylight is barely breaking and he has had an accident. He is at my beside; he cries out for dry clothes, desperate for breakfast and fresh water in his sippy.
My toddler needs me to meet his basic needs, and I need my toddler to get out of bed . . . to daily reach for heaven.
I have Lazaruses in my life; they are currently all under my roof ranging from toddlerhood to college-aged. There are late nights, early mornings, and full days—always. My children continually call upon me for generosity, holding my eternity in their grubby and growing hands.
I am the mom—rich in life experience, education, spiritual knowledge, economic stability, and independence. I have been given a finite time with each of my children here on earth, and specifically at my table. How do I wake up to this call? Do I see the divine invitation before me? I believe the problem posed in today’s Gospel parable is not the riches themselves, but rather the issue is that of serving with genuine openness, fully awake in both body and in heart. I am called to pour out genuine mercy and compassion; this is where the life of seemingly small, mundane motherhood intersects with eternity.
How I serve and treat my poor and suffering, sprawling brood is the proving ground of my very path to salvation.
Saint John Paul II said of the parable of Lazarus
The parable of the rich man and Lazarus must always be present in our memory; it must form our conscience. Christ demands openness . . . Christ demands an openness that is more than benign attention, more than token actions or half-hearted efforts that leave the poor as destitute as before . . . All of humanity must think of the parable of the rich man and the beggar. Humanity must translate it into contemporary terms . . .
I must realize that my modern Catholic Motherhood invites me into the earthly pilgrimage of a demanding, merciful love. Every encounter in my domestic church is to be lived out of love, and for the hope of heaven . . . for in the end, it is only our serving with love that will be measured.
Fyodor Dostoevsky, in The Brothers Karamazov, reflects on the parable of Lazarus. “What is hell?” He explains, it is “the suffering of being unable to love.”
It is from my bedside, from my home that each of my children will one day leave . . . and will they have tasted of an open-hearted, compassionate love that allows them to believe in the mercy of our heavenly, eternal Father? Will this rich and merciful love then allow each of them, in turn, to love the world of Lazaruses they touch for all eternity?