Today’s Gospel is about Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19-31).
As we listen to the story, we learn that the rich man is not a bad guy at all. He never stole, he worked hard as far as we know and he kept the Ten Commandments. Wasn’t he entitled to some of the good things in life?
Where does the rich man wind up? In hell for all eternity. In the torment of hellfire he cries out to Abraham for a drop of cold water for his tongue. This parable of Jesus is most disturbing, to say the least. Here’s a rich man who’s a good guy and who winds up burning in hell forever.
All that he did wrong was eat well and wear nice clothes because he was financially successful in life. Isn’t this the Great American Dream? I don’t eat lobster and filet mignon every night and shop at Nieman Marcus, but I surely eat well every day and I buy and I wear very nice clothes.
The rich man was not responsible for Lazarus being poor or his having open sores. I don’t know about you, but I am very troubled by this parable. Is this where I will be in 10 or 20 years – burning in hell for no apparent reason at all?
So why is the rich man in hell? Because he didn’t understand what sin was all about. He thought sin was doing the wrong thing, saying bad things or thinking bad thoughts. He never considered the 4th kind of sin – not doing what we could or should for others. We call these sins of omission.
In the Confiteor we say: “For what I have done and for what I have failed to do.” Jesus is telling us not to forget our sins of omission – What we could or should do for others and we don’t.
Lazarus, the poor man, was lying at the rich man’s door. He figured that Lazarus was not his concern: “I mind my own business, let other people like Lazarus do the same.” The rich man did nothing wrong against Lazarus. He saw Lazarus, but he didn’t see him. He was Spiritually Blind! So he did nothing to help Lazarus.
Another question I ask myself: “Why did Lazarus get to go to heaven?” Was it because he was so poor? Was it because he had a tough life, dealing with his sores and no place to live? This is not what the parable says.
Jesus gives us a huge clue about why Lazarus is in heaven. Think of all the parables that Jesus ever told. There is not one parable where any of the characters have a name, not one, except for Lazarus.
The name Lazarus means “God is my help!” Everyday Lazarus lived and prayed his own name: “God is my help!” This is how he got to heaven. Lazarus was not driven by his ego. He was driven by his God….
What if the only things you had or possessed TODAY were what you thanked God for YESTERDAY? What would you have or possess today? Lazarus has much to teach us.
Jesus gives us another big clue about how you and I can wind up in heaven like Lazarus and not in hell like the rich man. The big clue is the word DOOR. Lazarus was lying at the rich man’s door. In Italian it is: porta. In French it is: porte. In Spanish it is: puerta. In English our word OPPORTUNITY comes for the root word for door.
Jesus tells us with one word how we can get to heaven: DOOR – Open the DOOR to the Lazarus’ in your life. Your life and mine have OPPORTUNITIES to help the Lazarus’ that are there in our lives. We can choose to be Spiritually Blind.
Many people have said that the greatest Christian hymn of all time is Amazing Grace. The first four lines of the hymn tell us all we need to know about getting into heaven –
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now I’m found,
Was blind, but now I see.