Sunday, 29 September 2013

The Rich Man and Lazarus

The 'rich man' who suffers eternally is the one who ignores Jesus Christ, in his own lifetime and, blind to Him, never sees Him in this life, or the life of the world to come.

It is striking that the Lord Jesus says this. Firstly, because the name of one man that He raises from the dead is called Lazarus, who He names in the parable today.  Secondly, of course, because He Himself will rise from the dead on the third day following His Passion and Death, during which He seems like something less than human, something cast away and scorned.

I've no doubt that this parable is to awaken within hearers the desire to love the poor and to show them Christian love and therefore be witnesses to the Lord who loves the poor. It is obvious that, since the beginning of the Church the followers of Our Lord Jesus Christ have been identified with the service of the poor. In the 21st century, this is still the case today. St Cosmos and St Damian, whose feast we celebrated last week, is but one example.

Searching for Christ in His Holy Parables

Yet every parable the Lord gives is Christological and we are always to search for Christ in them.  Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, but Lazarus is to die another natural death later on and remain dead even if his soul is immortal. The Lord dies once but will live and reign forever more as both King and Judge. He, too, like Lazarus, is the one who will 'rise again from the dead' but to the glory of the Resurrection in His Sacred Body. Yet it is He, also, who people will not believe, or believe in, Who people will neglect and ignore at our eternal peril. People will not believe in the need to repent despite that His Church calls men to do so after His glorious Resurrection, Ascension and His sending of the Holy Spirit to His Bride, the Church.

Who is the rich man? 

The rich man is humanity - all of us - me, you, etc - but the hearers of this Gospel parable will be firstly Christians. It is to the Gospel's hearers, to the Church and then to the whole World to which the Church preaches the Truth that the parable is aimed, that we may repent and follow Jesus.

Who is the poor man?

Who is Lazarus? There can be little doubt that Lazarus is the poor man at our gate in literal terms who the Lord loves and raises up, for 'He raises the poor off the dunghill and sets him among princes, yea, even the princes of his people.' Today's collection was for CAFOD in most English churches. Well, CAFOD do (dubiously Christian) good work overseas. The Lord doesn't say that Lazarus is overseas. He says he is at our gate. He is very close by in all senses of the word! Of course, the Lord is pointing to the poor man at our gate, outside and within our Church communities and homes.

How easy it is for us to ignore our Salvation, to neglect our Saviour!
But is the Lord saying something else more as well? We can be assured that His Divine Words are most certainly saying more. Jesus becomes a type of Lazarus. We are the rich man in our flawed, fragile, fallen human nature, whether we be materially rich or materially poor, financially secure or not, feasting excessively or not. 

Why? Because whatever we have or indeed don't have, we would prefer the pleasures and passing enticements of this World than Him. In fact, most of us would prefer anything but Him, because He is the Way, the Truth and the Life and we have our own way, desire or seek our own truth and want to live our own kind of life. We need Him, He who identifies with the poor man, Lazarus, the man at the gate, in order to bring us to Salvation. Jesus tells us this parable, that we may see how much we need Him - so that we might repent and love Him with our whole heart.

If we ignore the poor man, 'Lazarus', a 'type' of man who in truth is the discarded and ignored Lord Jesus, Who we ignore out of selfish pride and selfish sinful habit, the man Who will lovingly die for us in His Passion - the 'Man of Sorrows' - yes if we ignore Jesus Christ, we will surely befall the fate of the rich man! 

"Sorry Lord, now's not a good time..."
Looking for Jesus or Looking Elsewhere?

Where is Jesus? Where have we ignored Him? Do we ignore Him or neglect Him first in our hearts? Do we push His presence out of our hearts when He is 'knocking at the door', when He is at the gate of our hearts? There He is, in our hearts, calling us lovingly to commune with Him and to pray to Him yet we resist. There He is, calling us to virtue and we resist, instead choosing our own wills! Do we drive the Lord Jesus out from our hearts through our selfishness and sin? I can say, yes!

The Lord is ever calling us to Himself, to converse with Him, to pray to Him, to cast all our cares upon Himself so that He may assist us with His love, mercy and grace, but so often, He is knocking at the door and we say, 'Now is not a good time!'

Oh, He is always knocking at the door until, tired and exhausted He slumps like Lazarus outside my heart while I feast on whatever my heart desires at the time, leaving my soul arid, dry, embittered and without Him Who I have been told to love with my whole being! Yet what do I love Him with? The spiritual equivalent of a fingernail! He is 'lucky' to get an hour's prayer out of me a day in total and in doing so, I consider Him the fortunate one! 24 hours in a day, He gets one, and I think, O haven't I done well! O what malice, what stunning ignorance of a blind and deaf sinner! For 23 hours in a day, Lazarus is ignored!

Ignored by Christians: The Lord God Almighty Himself
Jesus: The Lazarus of the Eucharist 
Have we ignored He who rose from the dead that we may live, fed by His Heavenly Food in the Blessed Sacrament? Do we receive Him in a State of mortal sin and make sacrilegious communions? Do we neglect to visit Him in the Tabernacle? Do we pay no attention to the neglected Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar? Do we receive Him lovingly or indifferently?

At this time, if ever there were a poor Man, a Lazarus most neglected, most discarded and most unloved, there is He, in the Tabernacle! How many pass Him by and how few pay Him any attention! Daily there is God in every town, in every Tabernacle waiting for us to visit Him. How He yearns for us. Yet we would rather do other things! How perverse is the nature of the rich man, we, humanity, when the Lord of all the Universe wants us and we reject or ignore Him!

Jesus neglected and ignored in the Confessional
Jesus: The Lazarus of the Confessional

Do we ignore the neglected Jesus at the gate when He is waiting for us in the Confessional, so that we may not suffer the fate of the rich man and die out of His love? How patiently does this most ignored Jesus wait for us in the person of His priest, yearning to give us His mercy so we may not die out of His friendship, yet we resist due to the perversity of our nature and flee His light, His goodness and mercy! Yet there He is at the gate of the Confessional, poor, neglected, ignored - we don't even see Him!

Jesus: The Lazarus of the Priest

We are called to assist spiritually and temporally our Priests who stand in the place of Jesus in the Church's Sacraments and who have been indelibly marked made by ordination as 'alter Christus'. Do we help and assist them and our parish, financially, practically and spiritually by our prayers. How indifferent we are to our priests so much of the time, yet it is they who bring us Jesus, the only true and lasting riches we should seek!

Jesus: The Lazarus of the Suffering and the Persecuted Church

The suffering souls in Purgatory await our prayers to God. What do we do for them? They who are so helpless and who are unable to assist their own selves? The persecuted Church around the World, especially in the Middle East, riven by terrorism and the desecration of Churches, while the slaughter of Christians continues unabated await our prayers and support. How interesting it is that while the genocide of Christians goes on every day, this is not of the least interest to the world's media! The media is never interested in Lazarus. Are we interested in aiding them with at least our prayers?

The glory of Jesus and the triumph of Lazarus turns 'worldly triumph' on its head

Yes. Lazarus dies neglected, unloved and alone, forgotten in the hearts of rich and worldly men interested only in furthering their own pleasure and excess. Jesus is the Victim of our sins. As sure as 'Lazarus' is taken into the 'bosom of Abraham' at his death, so Jesus, the true Lazarus, is taken after His Passion and Death and Ascension to the Bosom, yet more, to the Right Hand of the Eternal Father. Lazarus's comforting is a 'type' of the triumph of Jesus over sin and death, to reign at the Right Hand of God the Father, so that those who refuse the love, mercy and grace of the true Lazarus, the One who 'comes back from the dead' is appointed Judge of both the living and the dead and a 'great gulf' exists between those who choose Him in this life and will live forever with Him and those who do not choose Him in this life, who die without Him and who shall live without Him forever more.

And so Holy Mother Church continues to warn Her children and the whole World of the fate of those who ignore Jesus, the true and victorious Lazarus, who died but dies no more, who suffered but will suffer no more, yet Who suffered and died and rose again for the love of us all. Ignore Jesus at your peril! Christians are called to recognise Him in all those places in which He can be found. Yes, in the poor man at the gate, yes in the sick and imprisoned, but also in those most neglected of places - our hearts, our souls, in the Most Holy Eucharist, in the Sacrament of Penance, in the Holy Souls, in His priests, in the persecuted Church around the World. 

Let us not be blind to Jesus, since He has said that those who ignore Him in these places where He can be found, ignore Him at our eternal peril. Jesus is the One Who reigns not just in the Bosom, but at the Right Hand of the Father Almighty. He is comforted. His suffering and torment on Earth over, He lives forevermore. We, too, will live forever more, but we must choose our eternal destiny. Will we repent and seek Jesus for grace so that we will live lives of peace, justice, virtue, mercy and victory with Him, or will we choose eternal separation from He Who is the True and Everlasting Lazarus - the glorious Resurrected One, Jesus Christ, Our Blessed Lord.

'If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they believe, if one rise again from the dead.'

1 comment:

Magda said...

St. Gregory the Great explains this parable saying that the rich man symbolizes the Jews, Lazarus the pagans.

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