The rich man and Lazarus lived in very different worlds. The rich man dressed in purple robes; Lazarus was dressed in rags. One ate splendidly every day; the other didn’t eat at all.
One was healthy; the other covered with sores. The rich man lived in a palace; Lazarus lived in the streets.
To say they lived in different worlds is an understatement. The reality is that they lived in opposite worlds. The rich man lived in a garden; Lazarus lived in a desert. The rich man was in an earthly paradise while Lazarus was in an earthly hell. And yet, through their respective worlds were as different as day and night, they lay side by side.
Lazarus lived on the edge of the rich man’s world and because he was at the gate he got daily glimpses of the paradise from which he was excluded. Though he longed to enter the rich man’s world, he did not entertain the hope of sitting at his table. He would have been satisfied to eat the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table. But he did not even get them. It wasn’t that it couldn’t be done. It was just that there was no one willing to do it.
The one who was in the best position to help him was the rich man. He could have easily entered into Lazarus’ lonely, desperate world, and made contact with him. But he didn’t. He shut Lazarus out, not only out of his palace, but out of his mind and heart as well.
The rich man was suffering from the worst kind of poverty of all--- poverty of heart. His heart was empty of compassion and love. He wouldn’t even give Lazarus the scraps from his table. The street dogs were kinder to Lazarus than the rich man was.
The rich are wounded by their riches, just as the poor are wounded by their poverty. St. Teresa of Kolkata said, “The greatest evil in the world today is lack of love—the terrible indifference towards one’s neighbor which is so widespread.”
Jesus said that the poor would be with us always. Why? Because he is challenging us to see if we recognize his face in them and tend to their needs. Each of us will encounter Lazarus this week. May we not fail in tending to his needs.
Take time this week to read, reflect on, and act on Matthew 25:31-46.
– Fr. Dennis, September 29, 2019