26th Sunday in Ordinary Time. September 29, 2019.
Amos 6:1,4-7; 1Tim 6:11-16; Lk 16:19-31
Lazarus, Dives, and the Four Last Things
“My child, remember you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad.”
In the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, why did Lazarus end up in heaven and Dives, the rich man, end up in the torments of hell? There is nothing wrong or evil in having wealth and comfort that would condemn the rich Dives to hell. And there is nothing good about being poor and being deprived of the basic necessities of life that would automatically win heaven for the poor Lazarus. So why does Abraham say to Dives, “My child, remember you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad.”
In their Thanksgiving prayer after each Mass in the convents of the Missionaries of Charity, the sisters usually recite a prayer to Mary, the Mother of God, which has a particularly striking line, “Bless your own Missionaries of Charity. Help us to the do all the good we can.” After the reception of the greatest blessing, Christ Himself in Holy Communion, the sisters pray that they may never omit any good that they can do for the greater glory of God and for the good of others.
Dives lacked this desire and firm resolve to do all the good that he could with the blessings that God offered to him. He neglected the numerous possible goods that he could have done for Lazarus with the blessings that he had received from God. He was not expected to solve all Lazarus’ problems but to do some good to him. Having omitted the one good that he could and should have done, he ended up in hell, the place of endless and unremitting torture.
On his part Lazarus entered heaven because he patiently endured the evil that he could not change or avoid. He shows silent endurance in life as well as silence in paradise when Dives is still trying to boss him around, “Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue… Send Lazarus to my brothers to warn them lest they too come to this place of torment.” Lazarus does not let his sufferings in life separate him from God or diminish his trust in God. His friendship with Abraham here on earth despite his deprivations prepares him to be at Abraham’s bosom in paradise.
Our spiritual life orients us to heaven and away from hell when we are ready to use all God’s blessings to do all the good that we can do and to patiently endure all the evils that we cannot change, overcome, or avoid. In our secular and materialistic times, we are constantly tempted to reduce our Christian life to merely receiving and enjoying good things and avoiding bad things. Let us be certain: we are made for God, to be with Him forever in heaven, whether we receive good or bad things in this life.
Thus our Christian life is all about receiving with faith the innumerable riches offered to us in Jesus Christ and preparing ourselves and others to face the Four Last things – death, judgement, heaven and hell. The certainty of our own death reminds us that time is short and that this is the moment to do all the good we can and endure unavoidable evils. Judgement reminds us that the God who has bestowed His blessings on us will subject each and every one of us to strict personal account of how we have made use of His gifts during the time allotted to us. Our goal is to enter heaven and avoid hell by doing all the good we can by the grace of God as we endure the evils of this life. We cannot afford to neglect any doable good or succumb to any avoidable or surmountable evils if we are going to be in heaven.
We walk the path to hell when we willfully ignore the good that divine providence places in our path, reveals to us, and moves us to fulfill. That is why we beg for forgiveness for all our omissions in the Confiteor at Mass, “I have greatly sinned in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do.”
St. Paul writes to Timothy, reminding him that his primary vocation is not just to be bishop, but to attain eternal life, “Lay hold to eternal life, to which you were called when you made the confession in the presence of many witnesses.” Timothy will journey along the path to eternal life as long as he does not omit any of the commandments, “Keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He is to focus on Christ and draw strength from Him because Jesus “gave testimony before Pontus Pilate for the noble profession.” Jesus is that “faithful witness,”(Rev 1:5) who did the good of proclaiming the truth even when His life was at stake. Like Him, we too enter into life by doing the good we can and enduring what comes our way.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, how firmly resolved are we to do all the good we can today for the greater glory of God and for the good of our neighbors? How are we succumbing to the prevailing tendency today to pick and choose only those commandments or teachings of Christ that appeal to us and rejecting those that are difficult or unpopular in our culture today?
We have an example of this willful omitting of the good to be done that is right before us when we all jump on the climate change bandwagon while we yawn in unpardonable indifference as babies are being aborted and their intact and severed body parts are being sold by biotech companies like StemExpress. We easily look the other way as abortionists like the late Ulrich Klopfer store remains of thousands of murdered babies like trophies in the home. We unreflectingly pretend to care for the environment while being indifferent to the brutal slaughter and selling of the parts of the unborn who are ironically meant to be the due inheritors of the environment from us.
We must also ask ourselves how ready and willing are we to endure for the sake of Christ what we cannot change, overcome, or avoid in life. How ready and willing are we to endure nagging temptations, addictions, persecutions, insults, inner struggles, sickness, repeated failures, suffering and death of loved ones, conflict with loved ones, etc.?
We need to ponder and reflect on the Four Last Things constantly so that we strive to overcome any indifference towards the good to be done now or to become so self-indulgent to the point that we do not endure anything for Christ in this life. The Four Last Things remind us that hell and heaven are final destinations. There is no migration from one to the other as Abraham stated in the parable, “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.”
This is the time that God pours His blessings on us – graces of the Holy Spirit that can do and endure all things, divine mercy that forgives all sins, truth that sets us free, desires to serve others, the companionship and support of Mama Mary, the Saints and angels, talents and gifts that can bring hope and joy to many people, and, of course, the gift of time to make amends and begin again. How we make use of these blessings now will determine our eternal destiny.
The Eucharist we receive is the greatest of God’s blessings because it is the gift of Himself. This sacramental grace enlightens us to the good to be done here and now as well as the grace to do so and endure all evils. If we are going to use these blessings well, we must ask ourselves the following questions adapted from the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola:
What good have I done and what evil have I endured for Christ in the past?
What good am I doing now and what evil am I enduring now for Christ?
What good will I do now and what evil will I endure for Christ in the future?
Our honest answer to these questions will determine if we will face the Four Last Things with confidence in Christ and enter into heaven or not.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!