The Rich Man and Lazarus (Part One)

3335984783929b89406078f0d76555d4“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

Grace, mercy and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.

Everything of this world and within this world is fleeting. No matter how diligently we seek it, no matter how tightly we hold it, no longer how long we have it, it fades with time as we come to realize that it doesn’t last forever.

That perhaps had to be a thought that crossed the mind of the Rich Man as he begged for a drop of water amidst the pain of his torment and pleaded for a messenger to be sent to his father’s house, to warn his five brothers of his fate that they might repent and make right their path. In the world he had everything, and nothing bothered him much. Then why would it? He never had to worry about much, chances are he never knew hunger, to wonder where his next meal would come from or if it would even come. If he was ill he could see the finest physicians. He would dress in the finest clothing, eat the finest foods, and would, more than likely, have the ear of his cities most powerful people. He would never know the desperation of poverty or the pain and the uncertainty that goes with it.

Lazarus, on the other hand, knew little of any other life. A beggar, he lived in his tattered clothes. They were perhaps the only shelter he had against the elements as he lived off the compassion and the pity of those who passed him. The only relief he knew were when the dogs licked his sores, when his wounds were cared for by the animals that weren’t afraid to approach the dirty, wreck of a man left to the sorrow and the despair of his hopeless misery, what seemed like his only friends amidst a life of anguish and isolation.

We’re not told a lot about either man in the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus. We have no idea of who they were outside of the basics we are told of the life that they both lead, but one thing is absolutely certain, there was a world between them. For all we know the Rich Man went to temple often, he could have been an esteemed member of the community, someone who held a position of authority and respect or he could have been absolutely idle, spending his time and his money on parties, caring about nothing more than the vanities of this life. Likewise for all we know Lazarus could have been born to poverty, the son of beggars living the vicious circle of the only life he knew, or he once could have had something in this life, and so easily lost it borrowing money he wasn’t able to pay back. But then little of that is important to the story.

You see, the sin, the mortal, fatal sin of the Rich Man, wasn’t that he had money, it wasn’t that he was rich or that he lived a life of ease. His sin was that he didn’t care, that he squandered his time and his money on idle things while those around him suffered. As we are reminded a few chapters earlier in the Gospel of St. Luke, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Luke 12:48b) God gave to him and he was blessed richly. Yet, amidst those blessings there was a charge, there was a command, there was a task that was set before him as he looked to his life of wealth and privilege. It wasn’t to hold parties or to have feasts, it wasn’t to elevate his station or to dress himself in the finest clothes and to live a life of lazy luxury amidst the decadent corruption of a society where the poor were left afflicted and to live in desolation and despair. It was to show mercy and love, to offer hope and kindness, elevating the least the most as he offered his care to them.

What we have to remember is what Christ taught us when the teachers of the law asked Him what the greatest commandment was. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40) We are, as children of our Heavenly Father, cleansed by the blood of the Lamb in the encompassing sacrifice of our Savior, given to live lives of service, to commit ourselves to each other. To love God doesn’t just mean that we don’t take His name in vain, or that we have no other God before Him. It means to magnify His love and mercy, to sacrifice of ourselves for the sake of others, to give freely and without reservation as we put our trust in Him that we will be cared for. To love God is to love one another as beautifully and wonderfully created by His hand. It is to give ourselves over in grace and mercy, seeking to uplift and to elevate those around us, whatever the gifts we may have been given by our Heavenly Father to share.

Right now we live in a world that seems to be filled with chaos, with fear, anger, resentment, with hurt and suffering and sorrow. It’s a world that seems so prone to tell us to worry only about ourselves, our own safety, our own success, our own needs and wants and desires. It’s a world that, in many ways, plays off the selfish desires of our selfish flesh, ignoring the real and sincere needs that are out there. Yet, as children of our Heavenly Father we have been richly blessed, not just with money or with wealth or comforts that might make our lives easier. We have been blessed with hope and righteousness, with grace and mercy, with love and courage. As His faithful, as His beloved, we must be willing to give freely of these things, we must be willing to give freely of ourselves, sacrificing, as imitators of Christ, for the wellbeing of others. We cannot, as was the Rich Man, locked off from the world around us, as if somehow nothing else matters but our own comfort and ease. We must be willing to challenge ourselves to do more and to be more within the lives of others that we can narrow the chasm between us and others.

Yes, that might mean putting something or someone before ourselves, it might mean giving up something that we may give of ourselves to others. It certainly means trusting God more than we trust this world and placing His wisdom and His truth first. Yet, in that we come to realize that, regardless of what the wisdom of this age might say, we are looking forward to a greater understanding, to a greater truth that rests in the knowledge that when all else passes away, when all else is gone from us, and there is nothing else left of this world or in this world, the one thing that will remain is the love and the salvation of our God who mercifully and wondrously bestowed His blessings upon us in the boundless love that He has for us.

Remember Dear Brothers and Sisters, our faith is marked not just by word but by deed, to live in faith is to live your faith. That means hearing the cries of the poor and the downtrodden, the weak and the abused, it means hearing the pleas of the victim and the desolate, and answering them. It means opening yourself up to a wider world, to look outside the walls and the gate of your life to see those who are in need in any and every aspect of their life, and to offer freely of yourself without doubt, question or reservation, realizing that the blessings you have been given, they are given to you with the purpose of being a blessing in the lives of those around you. God gives to you because He knows you are capable of joy and hope, because you are capable of expressing His love and beauty in the lives of others, to show His miracles to those in the most need of a miracle in their life. Yours is now to hear His calling and to act on it.

Yes, this can be difficult at times, it can present challenges in your life. Take that as an opportunity to lean all the more on God, to look to Him as your source of strength as you seek to better understand His plan for your life. He will carry you through and take you to the places that you need to be to be who He intends you to be in the life of others.

It is then that you will know that your eyes are truly fixed on the race in front of you as you run it with endurance, seeking that more Christlike walk that we are commended to in the salvation that He brings to us. It is then that you know that you are on the path of becoming who God intended you to be, as you strive to live each day according to His will and His righteousness, giving of yourself in some small measure as a reflection of the great love that He showed first on to You. It is then that you will know that you have truly done not just the most for others but the most for yourself as you learn that there is more to this world and to this life than that which we see, and that which we are told, that there is more to this life than just ourselves and our own needs, wants and desires.

Lord, grant this unto us all.

Now may the peace of the Lord, that peace that surpasses all human understanding, knowledge and wisdom, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus even unto life everlasting, Amen.

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