They have Moses and the prophets.
The rich man in today’s gospel realized only after death the full gravity of his selfishness toward poor Lazarus. Then (to his credit) he did beg “Father Abraham” to send Lazarus back to warn the deceased’s brothers to be more unselfish. But Abraham replied, “Why? They already know right from wrong. Moses and the prophets have taught them that. If they ignore Moses and the prophets they will also ignore somebody who came back from the dead to scold them!”
There is nothing more frightening to contemplate than a man stubbornly committed to sin. Misusing his free will, he has deliberately chosen what honest conscience tells him is wrong. Even God cannot rescue him from his willful blindness.
Leon Czolgosz is perhaps an illustration. On September 6, 1901, in Buffalo, Czolgosz assassinated U.S. President William McKinley. He was found guilty and sentenced to electrocution at Auburn Prison. Leon was of Polish Catholic background, but had become a professed atheist, anarchist and terrorist.
Prison authorities, according to custom, reminded the prisoner that he had a right to see a clergyman. He did ask for pictures of available clergy of various faiths. The pastor of Auburn’s Holy Family Church sent a sheaf of pictures to the prison, delivered by an altar boy, Patrick Byrne. Czolgosz chose Father Theophil Szadzinski, the pastor of St. Stanislaus Church in Rochester, who happened to be in Auburn.
Father Theophil went to the jail accompanied by Patrick Byrne and another altar boy. The boys waited in the outer office. After a long time, the priest came out. Pat asked him anxiously what success he had had. “Paddy” said Father Theophil, “priests don’t talk about such things.”
Now it is possible that the assassin had a change of heart the moment before the switch was turned on. But there was no record that he died reconciled to God.
Ironically, Paddy Byrne, the altar boy who had been so concerned about Czolgosz’s conversion himself died at the hands of another sort of atheistic radicals a half century later. Patrick J. Byrne had grown up to be a prominent Maryknoll missionary in the Far East. In 1949 Pope Pius XII made him a bishop and apostolic delegate to Korea. But one year later the Korean Communists overran the capital, Seoul, captured a host of foreigners, among them Bishop Byrne, and made them take a “Death March” across the country. Bishop Byrne died of the hardships of that forced trek on November 25, 1950.
Good deeds have far-reaching effects. So, unfortunately, do evil ones.
-Fr. Robert F. McNamara
Q443: It would seem that the rich man (named “Dives” in the Latin tradition in the middle ages) got what he deserved. So where is the “Good News” in this gospel story (Luke 16:19-31)? Are we to rejoice in “revenge”?
Who are you in this story? Don’t forget that just about all gospel stories act as a “mirror,” and you can see yourself clearly if you put on your “honesty” glasses. Who do you associate yourself with: the poor old beggar Lazarus, or the rich man Dives? If you say “neither,” then you just might need to clean your eyeglasses.
Too many times we fall into the “trap” of making “Self” the center of our lives. We become complacent, just like the people of Northern Israel were doing at the time of the Prophet Amos. We hear in the First Reading (Amos 6:1a, 4-7) that the rich were simply ignoring the poor, one of the worst injustices that can happen to a person or to a strata of society.
Is it possible that we may think once we make out our check for the Sunday collection, we have taken care of the poor? Not necessarily so. Do you know if your Parish in turn tithes its income to the poor sector? How much, in fact, does your Parish give to the poor from that collection basket? An attitude of “Indifference” – the sin of Dives – might say, “that’s Father’s problem.” Not so! Dives represents each one of us, whenever we become indifferent to the plight of the poor in any way whatsoever.
If you think rich Dives got what he deserved, take a closer look into that mirror of scripture. Recognize anyone? If not, God bless you for your generosity and kind heart! If you do recognize yourself, it is never too late to care for God’s special ones, the materially poor – that is the Good News for each one of us. A final question for us: who is “spiritually” poor in this gospel story, and in our personal life story?
KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! Feigned ignorance and hardness of heart do not diminish the voluntary character of sin (CCC #1859). The parables of Lazarus and the Last Judgment, as related to the “daily bread” petition in the Lord’s Prayer, cannot be isolated from our Christian responsibility towards our needy brothers and sisters (CCC #2831).
Q599: The rich man in today’s gospel (Luke 16:19-31) did not do anything to hurt Lazarus; why did he receive such a painful judgment for all eternity?
Perhaps everyone has heard of the old expression, “déjà vu” – sort of meaning “this sounds familiar,” or “I’ve been here before.” Perhaps today’s gospel story about Lazarus and the rich man qualifies as a “déjà vu” candidate. After all, wasn’t it just last week that we were warned by Jesus that we need to make shrewd, wise and prudent decisions right now about our future (like the dishonest steward did last week), or else we may have an unpleasant experience in eternal life?
That theme continues in today’s story about poor Lazarus. When he and the rich man Dives (so named by the Latin tradition) both die and reach their final eternal lodging, it is the poor man who has the honored place in heaven, and the rich man who suffers the turmoil of hell. Riches alone are certainly not the problem. The problem that rich Dives encountered was that he seemed oblivious to the fact that poor Lazarus was right there outside his gate, and he did not recognize him nor his obligation in charity and justice to help him!
Now, no one wants that kind of painful eternity to be the reward of our blood brothers and sisters. So Dives asked Abraham to send a warning to his brothers to amend their lives. All to no avail: Dives was told that his brothers needed no other help than what was already available in the Holy Scriptures; so additional warnings would do them no good!
Yes, this is about social justice (including the first reading, Amos 6:1a, 4-7) something you ought to know all about from your study and meditation of Holy Scripture. When was the last time you really studied scripture, or took a guided course in God’s inspired word? You have no excuse. None will be accepted on judgment day. What will you do? Time is short.
KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! If you profess to be a Christian, you are called to take responsibility for your hungry brothers and sisters (CCC 2831). Remember the warning in Matthew’s story of the Last Judgment scene (Matthew 25:31-46)! Am I my brother’s keeper? You betcha!
The Love of Money is the Root of All Evil
These words immediately precede the selection read in today’s liturgy. It is interesting that of all the sins and vices humans have fallen victim to, the ones most often referred to in the New Testament have to do with wealth and misused power. It is enough to give someone with an adequate income a case of the jitters. What’s so wrong with working hard to acquire a decent standard of living? Nothing really, though there might be some serious questions about where to draw the line that separates a decent standard of living from conspicuous consumption! The real problem is not wealth in itself, but what it can do to us. When we have enough and maybe more than enough to live comfortably, we may begin to forget our dependence on God. We could begin to think we have it made, like the rich man in the gospel, and become infected with terminal complacency. A comfortable sufficiency can lead to self-indulgence which blinds us to the needs of others. This is what both Amos and Jesus condemn in today’s readings.
Lord, open our eyes to see how temporary our possessions are. We thank you Father for all the good things we enjoy; teach us to be grateful and to use them well according to your teaching. Help us never to forget those whom you keep under your special care, the poor, the sick, the oppressed.