“By touching the flesh of the crucified Jesus in the suffering, sinners can receive the gift of realizing that they, too, are poor and in need” - Pope Francis (Lenten message 2016)
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.'"
I suspect that people of good will reading this reflection might show compassion for such a man suffering as Lazarus if confronted so blatantly (“lying at his door”). Our challenge is more subtle in our full, busy and noisy lives. We should ask ourselves - who in our lives is “Lazarus”? We may be often tone deaf to the brokenness of those around us. We must open our hearts fully to the Holy Spirit to reveal to us who around us is in need or our special love and support because of their life situation, which may not be physically obvious but could be just as devastating as the destitution Lazarus experienced.
In our gospel passage above, the rich man valued things over people, and he paid a very high price for his lack of compassion. Let us always strive to be humble and kind and sensitive to the movements of the spirit drawing us to those in physical or emotional need of our support and love.
Indeed the verse before the Gospel in today’s reading says it all “Blessed are they who have kept the word with a generous heart and yield a harvest through perseverance.”