What parable would make a man with three doctoral degrees (one in medicine, one in theology, one in philosophy) leave civilization with all of its culture and amenities and depart for the jungles of darkest Africa? What parable could induce a man, who was recognized as one of the best concert organists in all of Europe, go to a place where there were no organs to play. What parable would so intensely motivate a man that he would give up a teaching position in Vienna, Austria to go and deal with people who were so deprived that they were still living in the superstitions of the dark ages for all practical purposes. The man who I am talking about, of course, is Dr. Albert Schweitzer who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952. And the single parable that so radically altered his life, according to him, was our text for this morning. It was the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.
The rich man of today's story was "a winner in this life," says James Tahaney, "and a loser in the next."
Dogs and cats in the United States eat more nutritious food than do the homeless in refugee camps in the third world. That chilling information is reported by The New York Times.
What a masterful storyteller and wordsmith the Master is. It boggles the mind to reflect how much He was able to squeeze into twelve verses. He is a teacher par excellence.
Michel de Verteuil
General Textual comments
- verses 23 to 26: a first dialogue between the rich man and Abraham;
- verses 27 to 31: a second dialogue between them.
A reminder for this parable: all Bible meditation must start from experience. Therefore do not read this parable first of all as something that happened in the next life, because you have no experience of that. The parable may well lead you to conclude something about the next life, but you mustn’t start there.
ignored by everyone,
as if we were at the gate of a very wealthy man,
longing to fill ourselves with scraps from his table.
But you lead us from there to an experience of security :
- a moment of deep prayer;
- we feel loved by our family;
- we find ourselves in a group which shares our values.
We feel as if we had been gathered into the bosom of our ancestors,
safe from all those who would send us here and there for their own purposes,
as safe as if a great gulf had been fixed between us
to stop anyone who wanted to from crossing from our side to theirs,
and to stop anyone crossing from their side to ours.
Thank you, Lord. Lord, remorse is a terrible thing.
It is being in agony in flames of fire,
seeing those we have wronged a long way off,
longing to have them dip their finger in water
and cool our tongue, and finding that between us and them a great gulf has been fixed
to stop any crossing from their side to ours.
Preserve us, Lord.
that they may teach right values to their children,
teaching them not to set their hearts on purple clothes and fine linen
nor on feasting magnificently every day,
because these things die and are buried,
but to reverence poor people because one day they will be carried
away by angels to the bosom of Abraham.
and where the poor man Lazarus can sit down at the same table with the rich man.”
Pope Paul VI
Lord, when we look around at the world today, what do we see?
Rich nations dressed in purple and fine linen,
feasting magnificently every day,
while at their very gates lie poor nations,
covered with sores and longing to fill themselves
with scraps from the tables of the rich,
dogs even come and lick their sores.
Lord, we pray that your Church may continue to call the world
to repentance as Jesus did.
the moment we break faith with one another,
the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.”
Lord, whenever the time comes
that rich people dress in purple and fine linen
and feast magnificently every day,
while the poor lie at their gates unattended,
their only future is to die and be buried.
William Loader, First Thoughts on Year C Gospel Passages from the Lectionary
6. The Trouble with Generalization
We may be tempted to generalize the rich -- since so few of us belong to that category. The rich man is not named, but he is also not condemned for being rich, but for his indifference and uncaring attitude towards poor Lazarus right outside his door. Remember that Abraham was wealthy, and he isn't in the place of torment.
Brian Stoffregen, Exegetical Notes
Is that the word of warning we need? Wake up! Pay attention! Look around you. You may be tramping on the heart of someone nearby. Who is the Lazarus at your gate?
Fr. Tony Kadavil:
"America's Mansions." There was a television show, America's Mansions, featuring homes of the extremely rich in the U. S. It featured the Vanderbilt estate in Hyde Park, New York constructed by a wealthy industrialist of the nineteenth century. It is a fifty-four room home, with a breathtaking view of the Hudson River and the Catskill Mountains in the distance. Another feature was the home of Bill Gates the richest man in the world. Its building cost was over $53 million. It is a fifty-four room house: a 66,000 square foot complex with seven bedrooms, 24 bathrooms, six fireplaces and an 11,500 square-foot inner sanctum for privacy. The financier Nelson Peltz’s mansion on his waterfront estate in Florida is worth $75 million. The original price of the Bel-Air Mansion owned by Iris Cantor, the widow of Gerald Cantor, was $60 million. (http://www.forbes.com). We find it hard to imagine living in such luxury. But neither can we imagine the poverty found around the world. Here is the report of the United Nations Human Development Commission. "The richest fifth [20 percent] of the world's people consumes 86 percent of all goods and services, while the poorest fifth [20 percent] consumes just 1.3 percent.” The three richest people in the world have assets that exceed the combined gross domestic product of the 48 least developed countries. "Americans spend $8 billion a year on cosmetics--$2 billion more than the estimated annual total needed to provide basic education for everyone in the world.” Each day over 700 million people do not get enough to eat. Each year twelve million children below the age of five starve to death in a world that produces enough food for everyone to eat over 4 pounds of food a day. 250,000 go blind each year because of vitamin deficiency in their diet. In Latin America, forty million abandoned children live on the streets. Even in the United States about three million people are homeless at least a part of each year. In today’s Gospel, Jesus suggests a remedy: share your blessings generously with others instead of using them selfishly and thus making yourselves eligible for eternal punishment.
Sharing is the criterion of Last Judgment: Matthew (25: 31ff), tells us that all six questions to be asked of each one of us by Jesus when He comes in glory as our judge are based on how we have shared our blessings from Him (food, drink, home, mercy and compassion), with others. Here is the message given by Pope John Paul II in Yankee Stadium, New York during his first visit to the U.S., October 2, 1979. "The parable of the rich man and Lazarus must always be present in our memory; it must form our conscience. Christ demands openness to our brothers and sisters in need – openness from the rich, the affluent, the economically advanced; openness to the poor, the underdeveloped and the disadvantaged. Christ demands an openness that is more than benign attention, more than token actions or halfhearted efforts that leave the poor as destitute as before or even more so. ...We cannot stand idly by, enjoying our own riches and freedom, if, in any place, the Lazarus of the 20th century stands at our doors.”