The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus
OR: In 1950, according to the daily homily of book of Mark Link, SJ, Albert Schweitzer was named the “man of the century.” In 1952 he won the coveted Nobel Peace Prize.
At the age of 30, Schweitzer gave up his career as a concert pianist in Europe to become a doctor. Eventually, he built and staffed a hospital in the jungles of Africa.
Schweitzer said the Parable of Lazarus and the rich man influenced his decision to become a missionary doctor. He reasoned that his African brother was Lazarus and he was the rich man: “Howe could I enjoy applause while Lazarus endured pain.
Today’s gospel parable of Lazarus and the rich man Jesus paints a dramatic scene of contrasts: riches and poverty, heaven and hell, compassion and indifference, inclusion and exclusion. We also see an abrupt and dramatic reversal of fortune. Lazarus which means, ‘God is my help,’ was not only poor, but also incapacitated because he was brought at the gates of the rich man’s house. The dogs which licked his sores probably also stole the little bread he procured for himself. Dogs in the ancient world symbolized contempt. Enduring the torment of these savage dogs only added to the poor man’s miseries and sufferings. The rich man treated the beggar with contempt and indifference, until he found his fortunes reversed.
At the end of their lives Lazarus was in the bosom of Abraham, not because he was poor and incapacitated, but because he did not lose hope in God. His eyes were set on a treasure stored up for him in heaven.
While the rich man when he died was in torment in the netherworld, why? Actually he did not molest Lazarus; he was in torment not because luxury is evil; that he was rich and Lazarus was rewarded not because he is poor. It is because the parable did not imply that wealth is bad and therefore let us glorify poverty. He was in torment not because he called the police to have Lazarus arrested or removed from his gate. It was not he objected to giving Lazarus the scraps from his table. It was not that he kicked Lazarus each time he passed him. He was in torment because, like many of us, he did nothing so that the life of Lazarus will become better; he did nothing about the rights of the poor and did not extend help to them. His sin is that did not lift a finger to help him. His sin was that he closed his eyes to the fact that Lazarus existed. He was in apathy and indifference even if he had all the means to help Lazarus and uplift the latter’s deplorable situation. He wasted his opportunity to be of service to Lazarus.
Just like this story of an SVD missionary, who served some tribal people for over ten years in Mindoro. These are the Mangyans who form with others over 120 tribal groups in the whole Philippines.
In spite of the missionaries’ years of evangelizing efforts, only about ten percent is Christian. The majority remains unbelieving. Why? According to them, it is the Christians who cheat, grab their lands, kill them, and destroy the mountains. They continue to ask: “Why is your life against the teachings of the God of Love you preach and teach?”
And so at the end let us reflect these words coming from a priest: “Riches may indeed blind us to the many Lazaruses in our midst. To whom much is given, much is expected in return. Wealth is not to be used for self-satisfaction alone. It is meant to be shared to gain eternal rewards.”
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