The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus
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.'"
RICHES ARE MEANS, NOT AN END
When her parents asked the young woman why she wanted to become a nun, she answered: "You would not understand me. You can only see the treasures here on earth and not the treasures that last." She wanted to point out that they were more focused on the "means" and not on the "end," on the riches here here on earth which she could give them help support the studies of her brothers and sisters, and not on the "end" of our existence---that is, "heaven," the experience of intimate communion with God, the loving embrace of God, the destiny of all beings.
The readings remind us that riches are means, not an end. The Gospel emphasizes true wisdom: "Know what is more important in life. Established proper relation between the means and the end, between riches and destiny of our life." Thus, we can be assured of what counts more in life, without focusing more on what is secondary.
Pondering on the readings, particularly on the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, we can learn the following:
* Use properly your riches. The parable invites us to reflect not so much on hell but on how we use our riches. The warning of Jesus is evident: "Do not focus your attention on the means but on the end. Do not let riches hinder you from becoming more human. Instead, let riches make you more in solidarity with the needy."
Jesus describes the future of those who are rich but do not share their blessings with the poor and the needy. He does not say that riches are evil or unnecessary for life. Nevertheless, he emphasizes how riches have to be seen as "means" and not "end." The rich man seems to be happy. He is "dressed in purple garments and fine linen" and dines "sumptuously each day." On the other hand, Lazarus, the poor man, has nothing to eat. He is "covered with sores" and will gladly eat the scraps that fall from the rich man's table. God's justice prevails in the end. The rich man is not able to bring his riches into the life hereafter; he repents too late. The poor man, on the other hand, is rewarded with eternal happiness.
* Trust in God, not in your riches. Nothing is said if the rich man has gained his treasures unjustly. The Gospel does not accuse or condemn the fact of merely being rich. It condemns those who are rich yet do not care about the welfare of others.
Jesus calls foolish those who put their trust in things that are "passing" and not in God. These could not be their "passport" to life. The rich seems to have everything but come empty-handed before God.
*Sin of Ommision: The rich man does not do anything evil to Lazarus. He does not hurt Lazarus. But neither does he do anything good for Lazarus.
This happens not only among rich and poor nations but also among families, ecclsial communities, and concrete persons. Sometimes we forget the finality of the material goods of the earth. We are called to share with others what we have. This is an invitation for both the rich and the poor.