Free Now for Eternal Life
Jesus said to the Pharisees:
"There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen
and dined sumptuously each day.
And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores,
who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps
that fell from the rich man's table.
Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.
When the poor man died,
he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham.
The rich man also died and was buried,
and from the netherworld, where he was in torment,
he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off
and Lazarus at his side.
And he cried out, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me.
Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue,
for I am suffering torment in these flames.'
'My child, remember that you received
what was good during your lifetime
while Lazarus likewise received what was bad;
but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented.
Moreover, between us and you, a great chasm is established
to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go
from our side to yours or from your side to ours.'
He said, 'Then I beg you, father,
send him to my father's house, for I have five brothers,
so that he may warn them,
lest they too come to this place of torment.'
But Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the prophets.
Let them listen to them.'
He said, 'Oh no, father Abraham,
but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.'
Then Abraham said, 'If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets,
neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.'"
Free Now for Eternal Life
Is it better to be rich in this life or to get into Heaven? Are these two realities mutually opposed?
Jesus tells a Gospel story that makes us uncomfortable, but he does this to bring us salvation. The story of Lazarus and the rich man is powerful and carries a commanding message for all of us. Jesus shows us the path to true freedom.
What's in a name?
There is something shocking about the names in today's Gospel. We are used to the powerful being named when there is an account of a historical event. The sacred author makes sure to mention Abraham, one of the giant models of the Old Testament, in order to give importance and authority to his story. But of the two protagonists of the story, the rich man's name is intentionally left out. This is a clear statement that shows that the poor man is just as important in the eyes of God.
"Our names have the potential to influence our behavior, physical appearance, career path and life choices, popularity, and how others perceive us." (Beatrice Barbezzeni, https://insight.openexo.com/how-our-name-affects-our-personality-and-identity-what-social-psychology-says/) Our names are important to us because they are intensely personal and touch the core of our being.
How often do you make a point of learning someone's name? In Denver, there is an impressive youth apostolate called Christ in the City. (https://christinthecity.org/) Young missionaries visit the homeless on the streets of the city. They make a point of asking the people they meet for their names. Why? Because our name helps us to feel recognized. It helps us to feel important. And someone who has lost everything still has a name. It is easy to think of the homeless or the immigrants as an abstract mass. We can plan policy and propose changes. But things take a different turn when we place faces and names.
At the end of his life, Lazarus was overjoyed to hear his name read aloud in the Book of Life.
This life is for repentance
We act like we always have tomorrow, but this is something we cannot know. In the Gospel story that Jesus told, the rich man was surprised by his eternal fate. He did not realize that his callous treatment of others during his lifetime would lead to his demise forever. Lazarus had to suffer in this life, but apparently, he had been able to lead a good life that got him ready for Paradise.
Once it is too late, the rich man understands that he had made the worst possible choices for his own life. He had focused on luxury and comfort, instead of serving those around him.
Let's not make the same mistake. We should give every day until it hurts. What are you doing today that is at the service of the Kingdom?
Those who are spiritually deaf will not listen
The rich man discovered a common problem. It is hard to accept that there are limits to what we can accomplish in this world. We often want to believe that we always have a second chance. We think that it is impossible that the gates of paradise will be closed to us. While it is true that God wants us to be in Heaven, happy forever with Him, He will not force us to enter. God stands at the door, beckoning us to enter, but we must take the step to enter. It is a terrible choice that we have to make, but it is our choice to make. This is the essence of human freedom and liberty.
Freedom is not an imaginary construct. It corresponds to the essence of human nature and must be respected and defended. We have to use our freedom in such a way that we are preparing for eternal life.