Sunday, September 30, 2007

Lazarus and the Rich Man (Dives)

Peace and Good!
This is a powerful parable, and an uncomfortable one—and so, very important. An interesting point: it is the only parable of Jesus that I am aware of in which one of the characters has a name: Lazarus. Sometimes the parable is called “Dives and Lazarus,” but dives is just the Latin word for “a rich man,” so he doesn’t get a name. In the parable, the rich man apparently enjoys his wealth and ignores Lazarus completely, not even sharing crumbs from his table. The mention of the dogs licking Lazarus’ wounds is meant to emphasize this neglect: the licking of wounds by dogs was thought to help healing, so even the dogs were doing more for the poor man, Lazarus, than his rich brother.
Even in the afterworld, the rich man does not look at Lazarus as anyone to note. He does not ask Lazarus for a drink, but tells Abraham to send him to dip the tip of his finger and serve the suffering rich man. He does not ask Lazarus to go to warn his brothers, but asks Abraham to send him. For the rich man, Lazarus still does not count for anything.
Which makes me think that the great chasm Abraham speaks of that exists between them is put there not by God, but by the rich man himself. His refusal to recognize Lazarus, either in life or in death, places a chasm that cannot be crossed.
So, we create the chasm. And we cannot bridge it, or cross over it ourselves. Only one who has loved in the supreme way can do that: Jesus. This same Jesus came and comes to show us how to cross that chasm, or better, how to rid ourselves of it. “Love God with your whole heart, your whole mind, your whole strength; love your neighbor as yourself; love one another as I have loved you.”
Francis experienced the gap being closed only when he looked on a leper and did not see a horror, or an object to be avoided, but a brother, to be embraced and served and, even, loved. Such is the power of Jesus Christ and the cross and resurrection.
God bless you!

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