Thursday, March 24, 2011

3/24/11 - Lazarus and the Rich Man

Luke 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.’”


There is a lot of imagery in this passage, and it prompts a lot of questions. Is this a parable or an account? Where exactly is the rich man - hell, or maybe purgatory (e.g., Scott Hahn thinks it purgatory, I think he's wrong). What is the torment like? Will we actually be able to see from one side of the chasm to another?  Will I be on one side, and someone I know and love be on the other?  Am I going to meet Abraham?

In my opinion, getting caught up in such details detracts from the clear message of the passage. We are called to obey Christ. We are called to help those in need. Christ is very clear on that in this passage, and in others. And in this passage, he gives us a glimpse of what the consequences of disobedience might be.

I don't know about you, but the imagery in this passage scares me.

When I read this I think about the times I've walked away from someone asking for money, because I just didn't want to be bothered, or I figured it was a scam, or I convinced myself that I shouldn't help because he'd just spend it on alcohol or cigarettes. Or times when I've been too busy with the things of my life to help with something else. Nope, I can't do that, I've got to get to soccer, baseball, cub scouts, dance, whatever.  Or maybe I've had a busy day or week or month, and I'm just tired.

According to Jesus, every time I've done that, I've walked away from HIM. 

One great thing about Lent in the Catholic Church is that the Church brings that message together for us, from all across the bible.  There is no hiding from it, or wiggling out of it by finding some passage somewhere that helps us justify that the way we act doesn't matter.

PS -- if you've made it this far -- tomorrow is the Solemnity of the Annunciation.  When we have a Solemnity on Friday during Lent, the Solemnity takes precedence.  Meditate on the annunciation, when Mary gave her "Fiat" for all of eternity.  And then ... have a steak!


  1. "some passage somewhere that helps us justify that the way we act doesn't matter."

    Indeed. The gospels are full of Jesus making it clear that you must act in faith; or as James put it, "faith without works is dead faith."

  2. Because of this parable of Lazarus I have tried to increase my almsgiving. God gives us whatever He does so we can be generous to others, even if we have little for ourselves.


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