Indifference as the opposite of love


By Rev. Fr. Tristan Jasper D. Laforteza

One bright and sunny day, a man took a walk along the street. When he came out of the gate, he found a beggar lying on the roadside under the heat of the sun. He looked heavenward and asked, “Lord, why do you let these things happen? Why aren’t you doing anything about them?” Subsequently, he walked towards the mall, and right before the entrance, he found a mother with her baby who was almost dead of hunger. Again, he looked heavenward and asked, “Lord, why do you let these things happen? Why aren’t you doing anything about them?” After an hour of shopping, he received a call from his friend, asking him for help with a seriously ill wife. But he became mad and warned his friend not to bother him anymore. Once again, he looked heavenward and asked God, “Lord, why do you let these things happen? Why aren’t you doing anything about them? “ That night, as he was sleeping, God suddenly appeared to him and said, “I did do something about the things you were complaining about. I created you and I blessed you. Now, what did you do about those blessings?”

In this story, the man pretty much felt pity and mercy for those who had been afflicted and faced with trials. Certainly, that was not bad at all. However, the problem was the fact that, by means of indifference, he also did not respond to other’s needs. Merriam-Webster defines indifference as a “lack of interest or concern.”

Our Gospel this Twenty Sixth Sunday of the Ordinary Time narrates to us the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man. It is said, “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 was not condemned due to his wealth and material attachments, rather, it was because he failed to show compassion to help Lazarus. Seemingly, he tended to live indifferently and only for himself. During his comfort and pleasure, he never recognized Lazarus as a person or brother.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church calls it a Sin of Omission which pertains to “the failure to do something which one can and ought to do. If this happens advertently and freely a sin is committed.” Indeed, entering the kingdom of heaven is not just a matter of avoiding sin and evil as exemplified by the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament.

Rather, it is much more of performing something good, trying to imitate Jesus who showed love for God and his neighbor in the New testament. Heaven involves a list of both dos and don’ts. Hence, we should not focus only on the things to be avoided but more so on what should be done.

God constantly blesses us abundantly by which we can become channels of His graces to a lot of people in various ways, most especially to the weak and unfortunate ones. We are given much so that we may become a giver in full capacity. Nevertheless, this we can faithfully perform once we are able to let go of our own indifference.

Finally, let me share with you the words of Elie Wiesel, “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”