|Gospel||Luke 16:19-31 ©|
|Dives and Lazarus|
On Line commentary
If you read today’s Gospel from Luke – or many similar stories of rich men who bask in the glory of the earthly wealth but do nothing for the poor and less fortunate – you might just think it is a sinful thing to be rich.
This story certainly paints a painful picture of what could happen to a greedy rich person. One can just imagine the suffering of having a tongue of fire with no cool water to quench. Keep in mind the words of Jeremiah. God probes the mind and tests the heart. We may think we know those who live lives of the rich and famous, but only God knows for sure.
Charity is love. And we must love one another. Therefore, we must be charitable to one another as well. So how in the world do wealthy people live with themselves? Shouldn’t they be giving away all their money? Is it a sin to have too much money in the bank?
The answer, of course, is no. While there are many great virtues to living a life of poverty, there are also many examples of wealthy individuals whose charity helped build our churches, sustain our parishes and help our Church feed, house and care for the poor – all over the world.
Thomas Merton, in one of his books, once wrote about the disdain he felt when visitors to the Trappist monastery would join the monks for a meal. What right do they have to be at the table, he would ponder as a young monk; shouldn’t we instead invite the poor and needy?
In time, as Merton gained wisdom, he came to realize that men are not defined by the numbers in their bank accounts. And these very men were among those who helped sustain the facilities Merton and his brother monks used for their mission to pray for the world.
In our adult faith formation ministry at our suburban parish, the topic of wealth is often raised in group discussion. Highly successful people, corporate CEO’s, business owners – they often struggle with the question: Do I give enough?
Jesus often reminds us that if we give to the poor, we will receive our reward in heaven. Clearly, the rich man in our Gospel today did not get that message.
But it’s true. Successful people who tithe to the Church, to charities or to the needy within their own circles of life, are bound to receive even more in return.
Not just more … but an overflowing abundance of more.
One of my favorite pastors long ago used to make this part of his homily when the “dreaded money talk” had to be made each year. Making eye contact with those in the Church, he would lean toward them and say something like this:
“Look, I know it seems difficult, but I promise you … if you tithe to the Church, I guarantee – GUARANTEE – that God will give it back to you by the end of the year.”
And he did not stop there.
“I am so certain of this … if you do this and you do NOT get that returned, I will give you your money back. Guaranteed.”
I never knew how well this appeal worked. But … the parish has never stopped growing; and it now includes a free-standing medical clinic for the poor, un-insured and under-insured … right next door to the free food pantry.
So, the doctors and lawyers and CEOs of that parish – and many other parishes – have no doubt stepped up to help build a house where God can do His work through his people.
And no doubt, they continue to be successful in their work. How much are they giving back to God? Well, that’s between them and Him. But the formula works. If you have not tried it, this Lenten season might just be the perfect time to do so.
So, let us pray to not be like chaff.
Let us not be blown away like the wind, but instead, to be a fruitful tree …
… Like a tree planted near running water, that yields its fruit in due season and whose leaves never fade. Whatever he does, prospers.