In today’s Gospel reading from Luke 16, Jesus tells the Pharisees a story about a beggar named Lazarus and a rich man. Both of them die and wind up in opposite places. Some theologians say the rich man was in hell. Hell is the word used in many translations, Hades in others and netherworld in the NAB. Others, including Pope Benedict XVI, say that this was Purgatory. In any event, it wasn’t Abraham’s bosom, which is where the righteous went before the gates of heaven were opened by Christ.
When the rich man dies, he winds up in everlasting torment. He sees Lazarus with Abraham, and asks Father Abraham to send Lazarus back to warn his five brothers of their impending fate if they should not change their ways. Interesting note…even though the guy was in the eternal fire, he still cared about his brothers. Hmmm… Abraham says to him, “If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.” A reference, of course, to Christ.
It’s another lesson on what riches and material posessions can do to us. The rich man was living the high life on earth. He probably got to the point where he didn’t even notice Lazarus begging at his doorstep any more. He probably had become like the man in the first part of today’s first reading; putting his trust in human beings, relying on his own strength. “I got mine! You go get your own!” Unfortunately, that only lasts for a short time. It just goes to show that, no matter how much you’ve got, you can’t take it with you. Just ask the rich man.
Father, help us to be generous in this life. Teach us to give of our time, talent and treasure, always remembering that the fruits of that kindness will be eternal.