Once there was a rich man who dressed in purple and fine linen and feasted every day. At his gate lay Lazarus, a poor man covered with sores, who longed to eat just the scraps falling from the rich man’s table. Even dogs used to come and lick his sores. It happened that the poor man died, and angels carried him to take his place with Abraham. The rich man also died, and was buried. From the netherworld where he was in torment, the rich man looked up and saw Abraham afar off, and with him Lazarus at rest.
He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me, and send Lazarus, with the tip of his finger dipped in water, to cool my tongue, for I suffer so much in this fire!’
Abraham replied, ‘My son, remember that in your lifetime you were well-off, while the lot of Lazarus was misfortune. Now he is in comfort, and you are in agony. But that is not all. Between your place and ours a great chasm has been fixed, so that no one can cross over from here to you, or from your side to us.’
The rich man implored once more, ‘Then I beg you, Father Abraham, send Lazarus to my father’s house, where my five brothers live. Let him warn them, so that they may not end up in this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.’ But the rich man said, ‘No, Father Abraham; but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced, even if someone rises from the dead.’”
“Most deceitful is the heart,” God tells us in today’s first reading. Anyone who has dared to look at himself or herself long and hard (for example, by means of regular examinations of conscience) knows how true this is.
Well, we have a vivid illustration of this truth in today’s gospel parable, which stages a rich man (mercifully anonymous) who enjoys a life of luxury at a stone’s throw away from a dying beggar, Lazarus. Was the rich man aware of Lazarus’ miserable life? Of course he was for, once, in the netherworld he mentions him to God by name. Yet, he never lifted a finger to lessen Lazarus’ poverty. No doubt he had succeeded in rationalizing his inaction by any number of reasonings: Am I Providence? Those wretches should be cared for by the Government not by honest taxpayers like me. You help one beggar and you’re soon invaded by hundreds of them…
“Most deceitful is the heart.” It is easy to blind ourselves to what we do not want to see. Forty thousand people die every day of hunger worldwide, yet the rich countries spend fortunes on perfumes and weight-reducing treatments…
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