“Hungry for love, He looks at you. Thirsty for kindness, He begs of you. Naked for loyalty, He hopes in you. Homeless for shelter in your heart, He asks of you. Will you be that one to Him?” – Mother Teresa
(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.’“
What’s in a name? Quite a lot, actually. Think about people who never seem able to remember your name. You notice, don’t you? By contrast, when someone calls you by your name, it helps you feel connected, valued, cared for.
So it’s interesting that the parable in today’s Gospel reading is the only parable in which one of the characters—the poor beggar, Lazarus—is actually named. The prodigal son, the vineyard owner, the sower with his seeds—none of these is named. Even the rich man in the story remains anonymous. Only Lazarus is dignified in this way.
Why Lazarus? Most likely it’s because of the special place that the poor have in God’s heart. God loves all his creation. He knows every person by name, and he wants to see us live in a way that affirms our common dignity. He wants us to build a society that supports the health and well-being of everyone. So when that didn’t happen for Lazarus in the story, God righted the injustice by bringing him right “to the bosom of Abraham” (Luke 16:22). This parable shows us how deeply grieved God is by the injustices that reduce his children to beggars longing in vain for scraps from their more fortunate neighbors.
We all know that as a society we must care for the poor and needy in our midst. But beyond simply providing for their physical needs, God is calling us into his heart for the poor. He is calling us to see everyone, even the poorest and most desperate, as our brothers and sisters—and to treat them with the dignity they all deserve.
Our heavenly Father doesn’t express his love in generalities, and neither should we. This is why the Lenten practice of almsgiving is so important.
Helping out at a food bank, visiting those in a nursing home or in prison, participating in a clothing drive—these are just a few ways that we can reach out and touch our needy brothers and sisters. These are just a few ways that we can learn that we are all one in the Lord.