“Those who love the poor during life will have nothing to fear at the hour of death” - St. Vincent de Paul
Gospel text (Lk 16:19-31): 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.’
The contrast between the rich and the poor is very strong. The luxury of the rich and his indifference to the plight of poor Lazarus lying at his door, his pathetic situation, even when dogs used to come and lick his sores (cf. Lk 16:19-21). It all has a deep realism introducing us into the scene.
We might ponder, where would I be if I was one of the two main characters of the parable? Our society reminds us, constantly, that we have to live well, in comfort and well-being, enjoying ourselves, worry free... To live for oneself, without minding others, or at the very best, the minimum necessary to keep one's conscience at ease, but certainly not because of a sense of justice, love or solidarity.
Today, we are presented with the need to listen to God in this life, to convert ourselves and take advantage of the time He offers us. God will eventually call us to account. In this life we risk our eternal life.
Jesus is quite explicit about the reality of Hell and He describes some of its characteristics: the sorrow senses suffer —«and send Lazarus with the tip of his finger dipped in water to cool my tongue, for I suffer so much in this fire» (Lk 16:24)— and its eternity —«Between your place and ours a great chasm has been fixed» (Lk 16:26).
Saint Gregory the Great tells us that «all these things are told so that nobody may apologize because of their ignorance». We have got to get rid of the old man and be free to be able to love our fellow man. We have to react to the suffering of the poor, the unwell or the forsaken. It would be good if we frequently remembered this parable, to make us more responsible. We will all have to face the moment of death.
Use wealth compassionately and prepare for heaven on earth.