It doesn’t feel like fall in Mobile this week, but it is! This Thursday, September 22, 2022, was the autumnal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. On that first day of autumn, the sun moved directly over the Earth’s equator, and we had a day and a night of approximately 12 hours each. (Equinox means “equal night.”) The light changes now, and the days grow shorter, and (we hope) the temperature cools as the year moves toward its close.
But in the Southern Hemisphere, it’s now spring! The opposite trends in light and weather happen there. The difference in seasons “down under” is easy for us to forget from our position on this side of the equator, and yet the whole of Earth’s life contains both, simultaneously.
Perspective on the seasons, the weather, and the light depends on where you are. Something similar could be said of our parable from Luke 16 this Sunday, the story of the rich man (“Dives”) and Lazarus. It is a story in two parts: the first happens in this life, where the rich man “feasted sumptuously every day” while Lazarus the beggar starved and grew ill at his gate; the second happens after both men die and go to their eternal homes, where the rich man is tormented in Hades while Lazarus rests in the comfort of Abraham’s care.
But this is not just a case of heaven in this life rewarded by hell in the next and hell in this life rewarded by heaven in the next. The weather and living conditions are reversed between the two parts, but together they form the whole of life. You could even say that the whole of life exists simultaneously. Richard Rohr quotes Catherine of Siena as saying, “It’s heaven all the way to heaven, and hell all the way to hell.” The rich man was separated from God’s kingdom all along, as he lived without care for his brother Lazarus; Lazarus, even in his suffering, was sharing the life of the kingdom through God’s abiding presence with him.
How we are living now, in this life, is a form of how we will live eternally, although this is difficult for us to perceive and easy to forget as we carry on with our lives. Sometimes a change in the angle of light can change our whole perspective.