Jesus said to the Pharisees: “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. 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. And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.’ Abraham replied, ‘My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented. Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours.’ He said, ‘Then I beg you, father, send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment.’ But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.’ He said, ‘Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ Then Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.’” (Luke 16:19-31)
Most of us analogize the parables, placing ourselves within them: we are the lost sheep, God is the shepherd; we are the beaten-up one, the person who helps us is the Samaritan. That usually helps to extend some meaning into our lives.
So, if we do that with today’s Gospel, who are we in this parable?
Are we the rich man who is ignoring the poor man? Are we the poor man, Lazarus? It’s pretty clear we are not Abraham. Are we the great chasm that has been set up that keeps Lazarus and the rich man eternally divided?
Most of us will immediately respond that we are not the rich man. He was on a first-name basis with the poor man. And yet despite this, he still did little or nothing to help him. Every day the rich man feasted sumptuously, and then wiped his mouth and hands with bread (the ancient equivalent of a napkin), throwing aside the scraps.
Most of us are not like Lazarus either. We have food to eat, a car to drive, a little or a lot of discretionary income and, in our hearts, we try to think of those that have less.
So, I guess that leaves us to be the rich man’s brothers. And, if so, that could be the personal direction of this Gospel.
If we claim God’s mercy and love for ourselves, we must show that mercy and love to all who bear His image and likeness. We have to be Christians not merely in name, but also in how we live, even when it is inconvenient or even painful.
A wise rabbi once said that darkness does not end when the sun rises or when someone lights a candle; instead, darkness ends when you can look into a person’s eyes and see the divine.
When we look at another person and know that they are God’s creation, that’s when the darkness will end. We must see others not for what they’ve done, nor for what they can become, but for their status as a child of God.
All of the world’s money can be thrown at society’s poverty – literally and allegorically, — but none of it will make an ounce of difference if we persist in not understanding one absolute, fundamental truth: the ones we hate, the ones we resist, the ones we argue with, the ones we kill are God’s children and deserving of respect and life.
We are the rich man’s brothers. Abraham has somehow allowed Lazarus to come back to our gate to warn us so that we might be brave enough to look at those who are calling for our attention. We must look at them as the children of God that they and we are.
God doesn’t want us to be like most folks. He wants us to be like Him, to love others with a good and generous heart, and, with the help of His grace, persevere and bear fruit for His Kingdom.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord Jesus, you are my joy and my treasure. Make me rich in the things of heaven and give me a generous heart that I may freely share with others the spiritual and material treasures you have given to me.”
“If anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, and yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” (1 John 3:17) We may think that we know nothing about the man or woman accosting us in the parking lots of our nation and asking for our help. We may think we do not the names of the marginalized in our society. We may think we do not know the names of those treated differently because of their race, or gender. We may think we do not the names of those feeling the weight of discrimination because of the way they think, or dress. But we do know something about them—we know their names. Lazarus.