This Sunday we read the well-known parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke
16:19-31). Perhaps the most scandalous thing about the rich man is that the sore-ridden, suffering beggar lying at his door was not some anonymous, faceless stranger – for the rich man himself speaks the name of the poor man, “Lazarus.” The Lord warns us, woe to the complacent in Zion (Amos 6:1,4-7), for their complacency not only deprives the poor of what they need – it goes so far as to deny their very humanity, their personal, God-given dignity. Indeed, as we learn from the Scriptures today, when we have an excessive concern for the comfort and the things of this world, we will inevitably neglect God and neighbor.
Jesus contrasts two extreme conditions in the parable: selfish wealth in one case,
desperate poverty in the other. Please note that Jesus says very little about the rich
man’s possessions themselves. Rather, Jesus focuses on how they had been used. For
example, Lazarus was not even given the leftovers or scraps from the daily banquets of food – and dogs even used to lick his sores. The rich man’s sinfulness was not the fact that he was wealthy, but the fact that he lived for himself as if God did not exist. He did not use his wealth according to God’s will. The rich man’s sin was that he was blind to Lazarus on his very doorstep. In the free will that God gives to us all, the rich man did not will the good – he seemed to forget the fact that we are not owners of what we have, but stewards and administrators. As Saint Augustine once wrote: “Lazarus was received into Heaven because of his humility and not because of his material poverty. Wealth itself is not what kept the rich man from eternal joy – his punishment was for selfishness and disloyalty.”
Selfishness, often manifested in a greed for power, money and material goods, can make people blind to the needs of neighbors. Selfish people oftentimes treat others as objects and not as human persons, and dictate to others how to live while they themselves live like the rich man. As brothers and sisters in Christ, may we remember that people in need are living alongside us – and that we can administer what we have with generosity, sharing not only material goods, but, as Saint Paul says, offering our time to listen, understand and sympathize and to offer friendship, kindness, joy and love (Galatians 5:22-23). Saint Paul steers us clear of temptations of selfishness and complacency by reminding us that we, as children of God, are to “pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience and gentleness” (1 Timothy 6:11-16). “The King of kings and the Lord of lords” dwells in unapproachable light, Saint Paul says – and it is the Light of Jesus Christ that our Lord calls us to bring to the poor who dwell with us. May we carry His light in our minds and hearts and into all our relationships, at home, work and school, sharing with others, in words and deeds, all the goods we have received from God, especially those of faith, hope, love, patience, goodness, peace and joy.
With peace and prayers in Christ,