“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.
There is nothing in this parable that indicates the rich man went to hell simply because he was rich. He went to hell not because he was rich, but because he passed by Lazarus every day and never really saw him. He went to hell because he allowed Lazarus to become invisible, because he failed to use his wealth to bridge the gulf that separated him from his brother Lazarus. The rich man’s egocentric obliviousness prevented him from recognizing and realizing that Lazarus was his brother; his indifference was the cause of the chasm.
As Methodist theologian and preacher Will Willimon, said about the chasm: “If we don’t reach out, reach across, give a hand up, or there will be hell to pay.”
—Fr. Martin Connell, S.J. serves John Carroll University, University Heights, OH, as professor education. He is also the Rector of the Jesuit community there.
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