26th Sunday OT, Year C.
Lazarus and the rich man.
Riches and freedom create a special responsibility.
Dear brethren in Christ, today’s Sunday liturgy is a continuation of the previous Sunday’s reflection on wealth.
- In the 1st reading, Our Lord through the prophet Amos (6:1a, 4-7) denounces the complacent, ostentatious and comfortable life of the wealthy who “Lying upon beds of ivory, stretched comfortably on their couches, they eat lambs taken from the flock, and calves from the stall!” but remain indifferent with the social ills which surround them.
- The Gospel on Lazarus and the rich man underlines the fact that one cannot be God’s friend in the next life if one lets his own brother die in misery in this present life.
- St. Paul invites us to make good use of our earthly journey by striving to live the virtues of “righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience,” and to “compete well for the faith” in order to “lay hold of eternal life, to which” we were called during Baptism.
These said, we can focus ourselves on the many lessons which today’s Gospel invites us to consider in our personal prayer.
- St. Luke presents to us on the one hand, the prosperous life of the rich man who, “dressed in purple garments and fine linen, dined sumptuously each day”; and on the other hand, the miserable life of Lazarus, who “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.”
- Lazarus’ miserable life was accentuated by St. Luke’s description of the dogs licking his sores, not that they alleviate the poor man’s suffering, but rather, to the Jews, dogs are unclean animals which cause legal impurity (Cf. Leviticus 11:27-28) and thus not considered as domestic animals.
- John Paul II once said: “We cannot stand idly by, enjoying our own riches and freedom, if, in any place, the Lazarus of the twentieth century stands at our doors. In the light of the parable of Christ, riches and freedom mean a special responsibility. Riches and freedom create a special obligation. And so, in the name of the solidarity that binds us all together in a common humanity, I again proclaim the dignity of every human person: the rich man and Lazarus are both human beings, both of them equally created in the image and likeness of God, both of them equally redeemed by Christ, at a great price, the price of the ‘precious blood of Christ’ (1 Pet 1:19)” (Homily in Yankee Stadium, 2 October 1979).
- The parable also teaches us that, immediately after death, the soul is judged by God for all its acts — the “particular judgment”, and is rewarded or punished; and that divine Revelation is by itself sufficient for men to be able to believe in the next life.
- “When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.”
- Wealth, earthly possessions, as also suffering, are fleeting realities: death marks their end, and the end of our earthly pilgrimage as the time to accept or reject God, live for Him or for ourselves, and of our capacity to sin or to merit reward for doing good. Immediately after death we begin to enjoy our reward or to suffer punishment, as the case may be. The Magisterium of the Church has defined that the souls of all who die in the grace of Cod enter heaven, immediately after death or after first undergoing a purging, if that is necessary.
- What does Abraham’s bosom signify? refers to the place or state “into which the souls of the just before the coming of Christ the Lord, were received, and where, without experiencing any sort of pain, but supported by the blessed hope of redemption, they enjoyed peaceful repose. To liberate these holy souls, who, in the bosom of Abraham were expecting the Saviour, Christ the Lord descended into hell” (Catechism of the Council of Trent, I, 6, 3).
- Was the rich man condemned because of his abundant wealth and earthly possessions? Absolutely not. Rather, he was condemned to the place of torment and suffer the scorching flames because he was indifferent to the needs of the poor Lazarus who was “lying at his door” and was longing to eat the scraps which fell from the rich man’s table.
- “Christ demands openness to our brothers and sisters in need — openness from the rich, the affluent, the economically advantaged; openness to the poor, the underdeveloped and the disadvantaged. Christ demands an openness that is more than benign attention, more than token actions or halfhearted efforts that leave the poor as destitute as before or even more so (John Paul II, Homily in Yankee Stadium, 2 October 1979).”
Dear friends, as St. Josemaria wrote: “Time is our treasure, the ‘money’ with which to buy eternity (Furrow, n. 882).” May today’s Sunday liturgy spur us to ask forgiveness from God for our indifference to those who are in need and ask Him for the grace to overcome our egoism to help those who are suffering, especially the poor and the sick, according to our personal capacity and circumstances. Let us strive to live the virtues, especially of charity, and the works of mercy towards our neighbor, for the love of neighbor is inseparable from and is the “thermometer” of an authentic love for God.
“I ask you and I beseech you and, falling at your feet, I beg you: as long as we enjoy the brief respite of life, let us repent, let us be converted, let us become better, so that we will not have to lament uselessly like that rich man when we die and tears can do us no good. For even if you have a father or a son or a friend or anyone else who might have influence with God, no one will be able to set you free, for your own deeds condemn you
(St. John Chrysostom, Homily on 1 Corinthians).”
Fr. Rolly Arjonillo, priest of Opus Dei.
ORIGINAL PHOTO SOURCE: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Meister_des_Codex_Aureus_Epternacensis_001.jpg
Antonio Pagani, Lazarus, 18th c. in http://67.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_mel5zhAIZy1qbhp9xo1_1280.jpg
Fedor Bronikov, Lazarus by the Rich Man’s gate in https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d4/Fedor_Bronnikov_007.jpg