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The Rich and Lazarus

Today’s Gospel lesson gives us instruction for our current everyday lives, as well as for our eternal life with God. It shows us that appearances can be deceiving. Rich people would often justify themselves by saying that God was rewarding them for their life of good deeds. Thus when some misfortune or evil occurred in other peoples’ lives, it was believed that they must have done something wrong before God, in order to deserve such punishment from Him. Thus the rich were God’s favorites, and everyone else got what they deserved. This understanding of things served well to make leaders and rulers pleased with their lot in life.

But Jesus contradicted this convenient materialistic world-view. In Luke 13:2-5, He tells us about Galileans who had been put to death by Pilate, and also about men in Jerusalem who had been killed by accident. Christ said that these men did not die because they were greater sinners than other men. In today’s Gospel lesson it was the poor, hungry beggar full of sores, who was God’s chosen, and not the successful rich man who dressed and dined well, but was thoughtless and inconsiderate, if not intentionally cruel.

Today’s Gospel lesson shows us how circumstances can become reversed, so that those who are well-off in this life, can become beggars in the after-life, when they are called to account for their former behavior. Let us try not to be so proud, blinded, or single-minded in the pursuit of our own riches, that we lose sight of and compassion for those around us.

Life is like a series of problems to be recognized, addressed, dealt with, and, if possible, overcome. If problems are not recognized and dealt with, they can accumulate to the point that life itself is imperiled or overcome. Those who fail to recognize problems or who react to problems with indifference or neglect, will suffer the consequences of their behavior.

The idea of a fixed insurmountable ‘great gulf’ separating the good from the evil, gives us a description of the separation between heaven and hell. It brings to mind the plight of those islanders who used up all their trees so that they could no longer build boats to catch the fish they needed in order to survive. They failed to identify and conserve a critical natural resource. The ocean became a fixed insurmountable ‘great gulf’, and eventually they and their societal efforts perished. In our times, the earth is like that island, in the ‘ocean’ of space. When all is exploited and polluted, what kind of life will there be left to live?

The ending verses of today’s lesson seem to say that if people do not pay any attention to the Word of God in the Old Testament, neither will they pay any attention to Christ, the Word of God in the New Testament. Not everyone is given the grace to hear and accept the Word of God. Neither is everyone open to the voice of instruction in their daily lives. This is not completely without some justification. There are so many liars, charlatans, and misguided distractions spewing advice that it becomes difficult to discern a note of truth in the din of life.

Fr. Walter Hvostik

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