From Luke 16
‘There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham.* The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side.* He called out, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.” But Abraham said, “Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.”
Longer version of my 2 minutes talk:
Dear Governor Bruce Rauner,
We are here on behalf of all of the Lazaruses of our city. We are counting ourselves among them. For the Lazarus of Jesus story is a parable of our own times, for this country for this state. Lazarus is exemplified in those who have been relegated by you and the politicians of our time to the pit wholes of our society. Unfortunately, you are aligning yourself with the billionaires that are running the common budget of our state.
Governor Rauner, in the parable we see the social economic disparity that shames every aspect of our common humanity and affronts God’s love. And we are here today to remind you once again that we will not rest until you attend to the demands of the Lazaruses of our society.
Governor Rauner, you and your billionaire friends are making a mockery of ourselves and turning this beautiful state with a great history into just another state where the rich live well and the poor are abused and completely forgotten.
In the same way that the Lazarus of our story of Lazarus had wounds and sores throughout his body, our poor are the Lazarus of our society, filled with deep wounds and sores. The body of our society is showing high fever and you as one of the most important doctors are not paying attention. Because the death of all the Lazaruses of our society is the death of us all! You don’t pay attention to them because they don’t have money to give to your campaign, because they are excluded from the system that keeps you afloat.
Lazarus was marked by the wounds of his society! Wounds that could have been cured!
Also Jesus had his body all marked by deep wounds! His hands/wrists, his side, his feet, his head, all of it, were marked by something that pierced and penetrated Jesus body provoking excruciating pain. Slowly, these wounds killed both Lazarus and Jesus. Both of them were killed by their society! Lazarus died because he was abandoned by the authorities of his time. And Jesus was executed by the same authorities. Both killed by the powers of his time in public spaces. Spaces of shame, anger, desolation and death.
In the same way, our poor are dying due to the abandonment of those who are supposed to care for them. Legislators and the rich people are making laws for themselves and not for the Lazarus of our time.
Governor Rauner, have you heard about the Stigmata? The Stigmata was those wounds in Jesus and Lazarus body. In the same way of Lazarus and Jesus, our poor people have had their bodies pierced. Pain inflicted by the political leaders of this country, which includes you, Governor Rauner.
If we are to name the stigmata of our society, the wounds of utter pain and hurt of our state we would mention in one word: budget cuts! Budget cuts so the rich can have more money! This big wound has been spread several diseases throughout the body of our society and now the wounds are getting worse.
This wound is provoking the stigmata of programs that help the poor with child care, that help the elderly people to stay out of nursing homes, and increases copayments for low-income parents who get child-care subsidies, that is now declining new applicants. Also, the low-income energy assistance program, which helps lower energy bills for more than 400,000 Illinois households each year needs immediate support as the winter approaches!
Do you see where the knife of your cuts is going? To the very flesh of the poor! You have been the perpetrator of the Stigmata of our people! Would you cut the flesh of your kids or your wife this way? You have child care if you want, you don’t need nursing homes, you don’t need help lowering the electric bill because your well lit and well warmed home are never in danger of any of your own cuts! You are cutting the poor with even more social stigma.
Governor Rauner, you, along with your billionaire friends are counted among the rich in our story. And for this you should be ashamed and repent. The Apostle Paul says in the letter to the Galatians: “I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.” And this is what we want you to do to bear the marks of Jesus in your office and cast away the social stigmas of the poor.
But if you rather inflict the wounds of social stigma and death to our people, you know what history will do to you? Like the hell in our story, history will count you and the one who preferred to listen to the rich of this city and your billionaire friends and move away from the poor. You will be counted among those who we will despise and shame will cover your name!
Don’t forget governor Rauner that this state has a long history of labor movement that has fought all of those who, like you, have forgotten to govern in fairness and towards the poor. Chicago is considered by many as the birthplace of the American labor movement, home to more “Local 1” unions than any other city, Women’s Trade Union League (WTUL) and so many other grassroots movements. Just to mention few women:
Mary Harris “Mother” Jones, a prominent labor and community organizer, who beginning in 1871 started coordinating strikes, organized the Knights of Labor and the United Mine Workers union and then cofounded the Industrial Workers of the World. In 1902 Mother Jones was called “the most dangerous woman in America” She lived in this city!
In the late 30’s, the Latina Guadalupe Marshall was active in the expanding labor movement in the city.
Also, in the 40’s Clara Day and Johnnie Jackson were two black women who fought for labor rights. Clara Day was vice president of the Coalition of Trade Union Women and Johnnie Jackson the president of the Chicago chapter
We are all seeing the poor being marked with the stigmata, not the Stigmata of God’s love but with the Stigmata of budge cuts that are bringing pain, and shame and lack of basic conditions for the poor!
So we are wounded, but the love of God is our balm of Gilead! We are not dead!
We are struggling and fainting, but the stigmata of God’s love will burst our lives and ourt strength so we will keep on going!
We are all agonizing with the poor in public square! But we are still shouting words of justice!
No one will stop us!
This country claims to be a democracy and that means that the power belongs to the people. We will not go anywhere! We will shout until you hear the plight of the poor and start to afflict the rich and give what belongs to the poor back to the poor. You do not have the power to heal us! That belongs to God and to the people! We will heal each other’s wounds until you come to our side! Yes, that is our quest for you Governor Rauner: change your side while you still have time! Cross from the side of the rich and side with the poor! Lazarus is with us! The rich with you. Change sides quickly! Otherwise what will happen to you here and your future is described in the parable, in the words of Abraham:
“Governor Rauner, Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.”
Change sides Governor Rauner! Be with the poor and on the side of the true history that is written in the margins of our society.