Lazarus at the Gate

Luke 16: 19-31
Jer 17: 5-10/ Ps 1: 1-4, 6

If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.
(Luke 16:31)

By charity or lack of it
Shall we be judged to face our fate.
Live moderately, and please take heed:
Poor ‘Lazarus’ may be at the gate.

“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’ He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ (Luke 16:19-31)

Reflection

The Gospel of Luke does not say how the rich man or Lazarus died, but the way the rich man lived, feasting on rich foods everyday, and Lazarus, with nothing to eat, the former probably died of a stroke or a heart attack, while the latter from sickness or malnutrition.

This is the only parable of our Lord where he gives a name, Lazarus, to a mere beggar, in stark contrast to a wealthy but nameless man that the Jews, particularly the Pharisees considered as more favored. And as if to emphasize His intimacy with the underprivileged, Jesus used the name of His beloved friend (Jn.11:5).

This parable in fact, consists of many contrasting elements: the very rich man vs. the very poor beggar, compassion vs. indifference, heaven vs. hell, their vast chasm of separation vs. the intimacy in Abraham’s bosom, etc. More than anything else, the story’s reversal of fortunes harks back to the lessons that Jesus had been teaching His followers earlier, that “Fortunate are you who are poor, the kingdom of God is yours,” and “Fortunate are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.” (Lk.6:20, 21) And Jesus showed in this parable that it was precisely because of the rich man’s preoccupation with his wealth that he had no compassion for Lazarus, the beggar, which led to his own fallen state. Finally, even the rich man’s fate in hell has a message to relay — if not to his five surviving brothers, at least to us who are reading this Gospel passage today — that there is indeed a place of eternal torment that we must all strive to avoid by practicing Jesus’ Good News to the poor and the downtrodden.

It is not wealth or poverty that will determine our final destiny. It is simply our choice to practice mercy, or to ignore the poverty and ignorance around us. It is our choice to believe and repent, or to continue pursuing our worldly, selfish pursuits. It is our choice to listen to the Word of God and His evangelists in the Bible, otherwise, we will never be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.

During this season of Lent, may we be more mindful of the poor in our midst, Lord, and may we be more generous in giving alms, because in truth, we should be the ones grateful to them, because in their humility of begging, they provide us the opportunity of receiving Your graces. Amen.

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