Amos 6:1, 4-7; 1 Tim. 6:11-16; Lk. 16:19-31
The Rich Man and Lazarus
The theme that pervades through the readings of today is that we are but care takers appointed by God and we all have the responsibility for the other. The rich and the prosperous cannot afford to remain self centered, egoistic and insensitive, while the poor around them suffer. It would have been better if the rulers of Judah and Israel, and the rich man in the Gospel, had paid attention to this call to be at the service of others.
The Gospel reading has a similarity to the first reading. We hear of the luxury of the rich man and his insensitivity to his neighbor. The rich man lived like a king and was not bothered about the needs of Lazarus, the man who was at his gate. The rich man in the Gospel may have been blessed with great luxury; he was only successful for a time. He did not do anything wrong. He must have earned his wealth rightly without harming any one. Only thing that he did was to ignore his brother who was suffering at the gate. In today’s terms we call it the sin of omission. He could have done something but he refused to do it and chose to ignore it.
In the parable, we see some specific remarks and choice of words made by Jesus. Lazarus is the name from Eliazer, the prophet who was close to God. Lazarus means ‘God is my help.’ Rich man is Dives as the Gospels tell us, one who is wealthy. Based on the custom of the time, the rich man was obligated to take care of Lazarus, ensuring that his basic needs were met. But this was not happening.
The reason as to why dogs were hanging around the table is because when the guests were invited to a feast, they would use bread to wipe their plates or their hands and then toss it under the table. Naturally, this would draw the dogs that would clean up the floor by eating what had been dropped from the table. This was the food that Lazarus longed to have so he could survive. He looked for the bread that was thrown under the table. But he was unable to fetch it for himself. He was so week that he could not even push away the dogs.
The Gospel of Luke tells us that the poor man was not very healthy. He had sores that the dogs would come and lick. Obviously the poor man could not afford medication and the rich man refused to acknowledge his presence and his needs. And so the poor man died. Soon after, the rich man died. We see now the opposite reactions. The poor man was taken to Heaven by angels and the rich man was sent to Hades where he was tormented. Heaven is identified with the banquet feast and Hades a place of torment and absence of any comfort.
We see the conversation that follows: the request of the rich man and the response of Abraham. He says, “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.” These words remind us of the “Judgment of the Nations.” Jesus said, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink… [Mt. 25:34-5] “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” [Mt. 25:40] This is a very powerful statement! What the rich man did to Lazarus, he did it to Jesus!
Next, we heard that the rich man asked Abraham to send Lazarus to his father’s house to warn his five brothers of the plight that awaited them if they continued to live as the rich man did. Abraham answered that his brothers had Moses and the prophets. In other words, they had the laws and the words of the prophets. However, we should not miss the context. Jesus is going to Jerusalem for his cross and his death and resurrection. The Sadducees never believed in Resurrection while the Pharisees believed. Jesus wants to make it clear that he will rise from the dead but that does not mean that people will still believe in him. There will be many who will not accept him as they refused to accept the prophets.
Equally today, we have the Words of Jesus and the teachings of the Holy Catholic Church that are continuously related to us through the ministers of the Word of God. As the rich man had plenty of opportunities to hear the truth, today, God’s creations, within and without the Church, have all the necessary opportunities to hear the truth. Sending Lazarus back to earth in spirit form is not going to save anyone. Today, if some were to see Lazarus, rather than listening to his message of salvation, they would ask him, “How did you do that?” Then they would try to reproduce the same result through scientific means so other souls can travel back and forth between heaven and earth. They would miss the whole point!
Let us then commit ourselves to be steadfast in faith and to be at the service of the church and humanity so as to win the place in the eternal banquet of the Lord.
Anecdote: The parable that challenged Dr. Albert Schweitzer: What parable would make a man with three doctoral degrees (one in medicine, one in theology, one in philosophy) leave a good life with all of its culture and amenities and depart for the jungles of darkest Africa? What parable could induce a man, who was recognized as one of the best concert organists in all of Europe, to go to a place where there were no organs to play? What parable would so intensely motivate a man that he would give up a teaching position in Vienna, Austria to go and help people who were so deprived that they were still living in the superstitions of the dark ages for all practical purposes? The man of course, was Dr. Albert Schweitzer and the single parable that so radically altered his life, according to him, was our text for this morning, the parable of Dives (the rich man) and Lazarus, the beggar. That parable convinced Schweitzer that the rich, Europe, should share its riches with the poor, Africa.(courtesy:cbcisite.com)