September 29 : Twenty Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Who is the Lazarus in my life?

September 25th, 2013

 The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus has left Bible readers wondering why the rich man had to go to hell. We are not told he acquired his wealth by foul means or that he was responsible for the poverty and misery of Lazarus or that he committed any crime or evil deed. He went to hell not for the things he did but for the things he didn't do. We often think that we sin by doing what we are not supposed to do -by thought, word and deed (i.e. the sin of commission). Today’s parable reminds us that the sin of omission can land someone in hell. The poor man Lazarus was lying at his gate. And the rich man simply couldn't care less. Of course he did nothing against Lazarus. But he has failed to do a good deed, failed to reach out and share a little of his blessings with someone in need. His sin is that of omission, and for that he was going to roast in hell.

Another problem we have with this parable is why Lazarus went to heaven. This is the only parable of Jesus where the character in the story has a name. So the name must be significant for interpreting the parable. The name “Lazarus” means “God is my help.” Lazarus, therefore, is not just a poor man, but a poor man who believes and trusts in God, which opens the gates of heaven to him. The good news of this parable is this: If you feel like a Lazarus right now, battered by sickness, poverty and pain, forgotten by society and by those whom God has blessed in this life, continue believing and trusting in God knowing that it will be well with your soul in the end. If you see yourself as one of those blessed by God with the good things of life, open your door and see. Probably there is a Lazarus lying at your gates and you have not taken notice.

These readings remind us that the law of love (see John 15:12; Romans 13:8) means that each of us in some way will be judged by the mercy we show to the poor. As the rich man learns in the parable of Lazarus - the distance between ourselves and God in the next life may be the distance we put between ourselves and the poor in this life (see Matthew 25:31-46; James 2:8,14-17).

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