Spooky movies make more money than movies about God. Frankenstein, Dracula, the mummy—there’s been one remake after another. We like to be scared.
That’s what the rich man wanted for Abraham to do—to go and scare his five brothers. If someone comes back from the dead, that usually gets our attention. The rich man wanted his brothers to get some kind of warning—something that would scare them to change their lifestyle. So which is easier to believe, a church teaching or an entra-ordinary manifestation? Father Abraham argued that if they had not paid attention to Moses and the prophets, they were not going to pay attention to a ghost. We are fascinated with what we cannot explain. Like a magic trick, like a cloud formation, like levitation. However, Moses and the prophets did not use any tricks. They communicated God’s message in ordinary ways. Jesus too. Our Lord used every day examples—parables—stories to teach people about the Kingdom of God. The story about the rich man and the poor man was not extra-ordinary. On the contrary—the story was about an all too common experience. Just like the situations we encounter—some folks have more than they need while others have nothing.
There are several unknown pieces in the story Jesus shared. Did the rich man ever see Lazarus? Did Lazarus ever ask the rich man to help him? We don’t know. But Jesus placed Lazarus at the rich man’s door. Perhaps the rich man never went out that door. If someone is in our yard—for hours at a time—we are probably going to notice. Not hurting anything, not making noise, not getting in the way. Our tendency would be to leave the person alone. No way, we’ll call the police! They are trespassing. Might have a contagious disease. Could be a spy—or worse, a relative who wants to come in and freeload. The majority of us do not like unexpected visitors, especially if they are starving.
Since the story has a “slap in the face” kind of ending, there should be no doubt that the words are straight from the mouth of Jesus. Might ring a bell about when Jesus said, “Blessed are you who are poor, hungry and who weep.” “Woe to you who are rich, full and laughing.” Because there is a future when the opposite will happen. The rich man in the story was punished because he failed to see what he should have seen. How easily we can pass people who need our help because everybody else is passing them. “They’ll use the money for drugs.” Then don’t give them money—give them food. We can all be proud of the efforts made by several parishioners who feed the homeless on a regular basis. Takes commitment, dedication, humility. The effort is done with respect, not judging, no questions asked. If someone wants help, then help is offered. Otherwise, the food is free—from their pocket—through their charity. They not only pray for the poor, they feed the poor. Jesus knew that there would always be inequality among us. “The poor you will always have…” A very sad statement considering that there is enough so that no one needs to be hungry in the world. The poor are here to stay, but so is the challenge not to ignore them. Frankly, they are our ticket to heaven. We have choices—to look or to look the other way. Lazarus is all around.
Chances are that we are not going to get our own special warning. God has already spoken and continues to speak through the Church and His Word. Our job is to put His message into action.