“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’
But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house—for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’
Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
Usually Jesus gives his parables a very short introduction. For example, one of
his longest parables, the Good Samaritan, gets to the point very quickly: A man was
going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. Today’s
parable, however, has a lengthy wind-up pitch.
Jesus wants to make sure we see the rich man and Lazarus very clearly in our mind’s eye.
He is trying to tug at our hearts; he wants us to feel compassion for Lazarus, even as he shows us clearly how the rich man (traditionally nicknamed “Divēs”) lived his life. And when Jesus points out that Lazarus spent his days begging at Divēs’ front door, I think he is hoping we feel a little shocked at the close proximity of two people we would normally view so differently.
It is clear that Jesus – at least Luke’s Jesus – believes the afterlife to be a place a
reversal (Woe to you who eat your fill now! You will be hungry!! Luke 6:25). Lazarus,
who lived in friendless torment, is now surrounded by love. Divēs, who on earth had
everything he wanted, now lives in hell. This is why Jesus, especially in Luke’s gospel,
emphasizes simplicity and repentance. If we can break our self-indulgent habits in this
life, then we will be welcome at a magnificent feast in the next.
If Divēs committed any sin, it was that of indifference to the tormented man lying
at his door. I remember in a previous job walking past a homeless man every day. The problems he had seemed far beyond anything I could help with, and so every day I walked right by him. Then one Lent I decided I would at least introduce myself and we started to chat a little every morning after that. I never gave him any money, but my chat with him became one of the bright points in my morning. My relationship with him helped me understand the problem of homelessness in my city, and helped me find ways I could actually help him and others.
As we read this week’s gospel, then, let us take up Jesus’ twofold challenge, first to live lives of humble simplicity, and second to overcome the temptation to indifference.
–Fr. Michael Simone, S.J. is beginning his ministry as instructor in Old Testament Studies at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry
Lord, give us the grace to embrace the truth that God is in every person’s life. Even if that life has been a disaster – destroyed by vices, drugs, or anything else. Help us to remember that although a person’s life is a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow. Above all increase our trust in this promise: While we can forget about you, your Spirit never, ever forgets about us.
–America, adapted from an interview with Pope Francis, September 30, 2013