The first reading and the gospel of today, about the parable of the poor Lazarus and of the rich man, give the direction how to live the present. These readings are not meant to scare us or torment us about the horrors of hell. These readings today tell us that if we are only concerned about our material wealth and our own well being that we will not recognize Jesus in those who are in need.. Lazarus represents Jesus who has suffered all our trials and has the scars of crucified love. He is the one who is at our doorstep and waits for us to open our hearts.
Jesus gives us this story to make a point so….. it is worth thinking about. First we come upon the rich man with no name (really his name is his wealth) the second man is the one by the gate (he is the one helped by God) Both of these men are under the watchful eye of God but both are more or less open to that presence. The rich man does not think he needs God, he is so well of in material things, such as, food and good clothes. The poor sick guy has nothing but God, he has no food and is sick, only dogs will come near him.
Lets look at ourselves in this light. We also have problems that we can hide under our wealth and outward appearance, but God knows what they are. These problems often make us humble and look for God. They make us yearn for a way to God's presence. It is in this state that we are blessed. we are blessed because we are poor in spirit. When we realize this, we come to Gods level. Remember. The kingdom of heaven is ours because we are poor of heart. We are indeed sons and daughters…. like Jesus… for this reason we are rich. Rich because we have God as our Father.
Having said all this … it is not a sin to be rich. It is only sinful when your wealth tricks you into believing that it is a god in itself. We need to recognize when God is speaking to us through those in need. We need to know when to love someone.
We can look to Mother Teresa for advice in this matter. She once said “That love starts at home: family first, then your town or city. It’s easy to love people who are far away, but not so easy top love those who live with us or are next door to us. I don’t agree with the big way of doing things… love needs to start with an individual. To love a person, you must make contact with that person, become close. You have to let people come in contact with the poor. When you do that you cross this enormous divide. It,s no longer these “millions” of people, but somebody you have actually touched.”
She tells the following story “Once in Bombay there was a big conference on poverty. When I reached the place, right in front of the door where hundreds of people were talking about food and hunger, I found a dying man. I took him to our home for the dying. He died there. He died of hunger. And the people inside were talking about how in fifteen years we will have so much food, so much this, so much that…. and that man died.”
She continues “I never look at the masses as my responsibility. I look at the individual. I can only love one person at a time. I can feed only one person at a time. I picked up one person. Maybe if I hadn’t picked up that one person I would not have picked up 42,000. The whole work is only a drop in the ocean. But if I did not put that drop in, the ocean would be one drop less. Same thing for you. same thing in your family.”
The rich man in our gospel reading could not have been expected to save the world. But he could have helped the beggar man at his gate.
Another kind of wealth we can think about is inner wealth or richness
To illustrate what I mean by inner wealth I have another story to tell…
There once was a wandering monk who came upon a village. He was about to settle down under a tree for the night when a villager came running to him and said “ Give me the precious stone”
“What stone are you talking about” asked the monk.
“Last night I had a dream that if I went to the outskirts of the village at dusk I would find a monk who would give me a precious stone that would make me rich forever”
The monk rummaged around in his sack, found a stone, and took it out. “ This probably the stone you are talking about” he said, as he handed it to the villager. “I found it in the forest a few days ago, you are welcome to it.”
The man took the stone and gazed at it in wonder. It was a diamond, the largest one he could ever imagine. He took it home with him. But all night he tossed around in his bed unable to sleep. Early next day he went back to the monk and said, “During the night I have done a lot of thinking. You can have the diamond back. Instead, give me the kind of wealth that makes it possible for you to give this diamond away so easily”
The richer a person’s inner life is, the simpler becomes his outer life. So also is it easier to be in the presence of God. That recognition of Gods way to heaven is called the way of Jesus. There are no other ways. It is a path of love. It is a love… pure, true, real, spiritual, made of concreteness and of the the gift of one’s life and riches that leads to heaven.