The rich man descends from luxury to suffering, while Lazarus is promoted from pain to Blessedness. In this life Lazarus lies at the gate. In Greek it suggests Lazarus is “thrown” or “dumped” there affording the rich man to help him but he doesn’t. In today’s Gospel, Lazarus does not blame anyone for his poverty and misery. He certainly doesn’t blame God for his situation. He doesn’t blame the rich man for his mean spirit. Thus, due to his humility he went to heaven, to the bosom of Abraham.
The rich man on the contrary, never thought of thanking God for his wealth. He did not show his gratitude to God by caring for the poor man at his gate. No, he feasted at grand banquets and was a gourmet bon vivant of his day. He possessed no humility, only hardheartedness, allowing Lazarus to die at his gate, surrounded by dogs that licked Lazarus’ sores, while he partied. Because of his stone-coldness to Lazarus he went to hell.
Why did God not allow the rich man in hell to send a message to his brothers to warn them to repent? Because it would have made no difference. God in His foreknowledge knew that they would not have reacted. Since they did not believe the greatest men of their people, Moses and the Prophets, why would they believe their own brother who had led such a futile and superficial life. Prophetically, Christ says in the Gospel, that they would not even have believed one who had been raised from the dead. And indeed, we know that this was so, for Christ was speaking after He had raised the son of the widow of Nain from the dead. Moreover He foresaw that His own death on the Cross-and His Resurrection would not convince everyone.
In the end the rich man never does understand. He understands the message about wealth and the poor, but he approaches Abraham as if Abraham was his peer. Lazarus remains an inferior who can be “sent” to comfort the rich man or to convince his brothers. The parable turns from the changed fortunes of the rich man and Lazarus to the question of people who do not get the point. If people still do not repent, even Lazarus’ miraculous return will not convince them.
The present Gospel is a firm lesson in caring for our neighbors in this life. It is a constant reminder to heed the lessons of God while we are still alive and can make the necessary changes in our life (metanoia) to please God. The present Gospel is a clear instruction that the decisions we make in this life will affect the experiences we will have after death. Amen
Fr. Nicholas Dilendorf