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The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus

Our gospel today is one of my favorite Bible stories because it is so real and while our Lord Jesus Christ told this parable 2,000 years ago, it is still very relevant today, except that God is no longer sending prophets to warn us of what fate awaits us in case we are so hard-headed that we continue to refuse to listen to those well-meaning friends who only care not only about our physical health, but our spiritual being as well. You can read this parable of the Rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31.

“[Jesus said to the Pharisees] 19 “There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. 20 And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even use to come and lick his sores.

22 When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 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.’

25 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. 26 Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing from our side to yours or from your side to ours.’ 27 He said, ‘Then I beg you, father, send him to my father’s house, 28 for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment.’

29 But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.’ 30 He said, “Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ 31 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.’

The rich should not misunderstand this parable that they are all doomed to the eternal fires of Gehenna when they pass from this life to the next. If you read the story very clearly, the rich man didn’t really care for Lazarus, who only ate from the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Lazarus had sores on him that even the dogs took pity on him that they would lick his sores, but the rich man really didn’t give a damn. This is why when the rich man died he ended in hell to be tormented in eternity.

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Ask yourself… what did the rich man do to earn his one-way ticket to hell? I can only guess that it is not what the rich man did to Lazarus; rather it is what the rich man didn’t do to Lazarus. Remember in the opening prayer during the Holy Mass called the Introductory Rite when we pray, “I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters that I have sinned through my own fault, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do.” This is the sin of omission that most of us unknowingly commit and I dare say we should all be aware of this sin.

Yes, a lot of Catholics and our fellow Christians who profess to have a personal relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ are so happy and content with their parishes, their congregation including those Lay Organizations and they dutifully attend to their ministries where it has become their comfort zone. Yet a lot of us do not really show how much we care for the poor amongst us, which is what God wants us to do.

Allow me to remind you again of what we just wrote three Sundays ago about the greatest commandment, which is the Shema recited by devout Jews every morning when they wake up and before they sleep? “Hear O Israel. You shall love, the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Giving help to the poor, clothing them, feeding them, giving a roof on their heads is something our Lord Jesus Christ asks us to do, right after we profess our love for God.

As I pointed out earlier, this parable was given by our Lord Jesus 2,000 years ago, yet it is still so relevant today. Yet a lot of the rich think that by giving to charities, they have already helped the poor. Some even help build chapels or churches or meditation parks as if they can “buy” or “bribe” their way into heaven. But is this what God wants from us? Perhaps the priests who are close to them may have enticed them to be charitable.

But if the rich truly wants to be saved, they should learn that God is love, “Deus Caritas Est”. From God’s love, they will discover that there can be no room for hate in our hearts. God’s love for us is enough for us to realize that we can love God back by learning to love those who have less in life.

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