Homily for the twenty-sixth Sunday of the year - Year C - Lk. 16:19-31


by

Father Daniel Meynen
 
 

"There was a rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, full of sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table; moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died and was buried; and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus in his bosom. And he called out, `Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame.' But Abraham said, `Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.' And he said, `Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment. But Abraham said, `They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, `No, father Abraham; but if some one goes to them from the dead, they will repent. He said to him, `If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead."





Homily:


"There was a rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, full of sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table; moreover the dogs came and licked his sores."


In today's world as in yesterday's, at the beginning of the third millenium just as in earlier times, there are men who are immensely rich as well as those reduced to extreme poverty. Jesus tells us this by means of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus the poor man. This story is quite moving, given how great a difference there is between the wealth of one man and the poverty of the other... The Church, following the Master, has always been concerned with the troubles of the poor, of the most destitute, of the neglected... The first Christians themselves tried to live in community, sharing their goods: "All who believed were together and had all things in common; and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need." (Acts 2:44-45)


In this parable of the rich man and Lazarus the poor man, is there really only a single poor man, the one Jesus calls Lazarus? For if there is material poverty, there is also spiritual poverty, the poverty of the spirit, that which marks man with the deepest and cruelest lack of magnanimity! And it is precisely this poverty that Jesus came to heal by proclaiming the Kingdom of God! Indeed, the Son of God came to earth to bring to the entire world his Word of Love, his message of mercy for all men and women, who are always inclined towards sin, due to lack of grace...


When we hear of the rich man who lives out each day in luxury and who allows the poor man named Lazarus to die of hunger, we are all tempted to cry out: "Justice! Justice! Justice!" But Jesus says to us, on the contrary: "Mercy! Mercy! Mercy!" As Saint John tells us: "God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him." (Jn. 3:17) We are still in the time of mercy; as long as he still lives, the rich man of whom Jesus speaks can convert himself and find peace for his soul in the merciful Love of the Lord. But will he do so? But will we do so?


"The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died and was buried."


That which was to happen, happened: Lazarus and the rich man died... The time of mercy had come to a close for both of them, and they entered into the time of justice, that time beyond which there is no more time, for it is eternity. And it is the same for all of us... When the hour of our death comes, we already see the final moment when the Lord Jesus returns in his Glory, rendering justice by rewarding the good and punishing the guilty... As long as we are alive, the grace and mercy of God are offered to us to help us on the way to conversion. But who knows when the Lord will come to judge us? Are we ready to die, right now? The answer is simple: yes, we are ready, if, for ourselves and for others, we cry out: "Mercy!"


"In Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus in his bosom. And he called out, 'Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame.' But Abraham said, `Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.' And he said, `Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment. But Abraham said, `They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, `No, father Abraham; but if some one goes to them from the dead, they will repent. He said to him, `If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead."


The rest of this story is terrifying! Or, at least, it is as far as the rich man is concerned... For Lazarus is already assured of soon receiving his reward for having endured so many evils during his life on earth! This is the destiny reserved for those who accept suffering with love: eternal bliss in the Heart of God! But, on the other hand, this is the unhappy destiny reserved for those who love themselves and all the pleasures of life: eternal hell, where God is not present as God, that is, as Love. For, in hell, there is only hatred and suffering of all kinds. But in hell there is, above all, the barrier that can never be crossed: "Between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us."


Curiously enough, one often hears people mention hell here and there in conversations, on the radio, on television... A teenager might describe a night out with his friends as "raising hell"... Alas, he doesn't know what he is saying... Hell is banalized, and the streets are overrun with imps! The Belgian soccer team is called the "Red Devils"! What madness! In fact, hell is something very serious indeed: hell is eternal, it is not a reality that exists in time, for, in time, in this very brief moment of our life on earth, we live in the time of mercy, of grace, of hope, of faith, of charity!


Let us not be afraid! God is here! Divine Providence watches over us and helps us to have a wonderful time on earth, even if suffering is something we must bear. Moreover, how could we avoid suffering? Even the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, suffered during her life, especially at the foot of the Cross... And yet, she never sinned... Let us ask her to help us, in order that the grace of the Holy Spirit might make us into new creatures, conscious of our nobility as sons and daughters of God!



To order the weekly homily immediately, click here