Sunday, September 30, 2007

Dives and Lazarus


I always find this a rather disturbing parable, the rich man is condemned for sins of which he is unaware, no deliberate action, but simple ignorance!

Most of our sins are the result of ignorance, but here the rich man's sins result in his damnation. This story alone puts pay to the "the little voice inside us", primary school notion of conscience.

Christianity is a revealed religion, this Revelation is "the Light of the nations", our faith is supposed to inform our conscience, this is why Abraham says that the rich man's brothers "have Moses and the prophets", and "if they will not listen to them....".


The trouble is that wealth tends to give us a sense of complacency, like the rich drunkards bawling on their ivory couches, we invent new instruments for our amusement, like some people in Brighton who seem continually to want invent new pleasures; a new drink, a new food, a new film, a new night club, a new sexual partner or sexual act, a new form of pornography. The great problem with wealth is it cuts us off from other people, we live amongst "the haves" and forget the "have nots", and the haves" always want to have more and take more. And it is always the poor from whom they take.


Let us not be presumptious and consider we will all be in Heaven, I am sure that is what the rich man believed. When you and I die and end up in the place of torment, who will be in the bosom of Abraham looking down on us? I suspect it might be the exploited Chinese worker who has made our cheap clothing, or the Bangladeshi farmer whose home and lands have been drowned because of climate change caused by our rapacious appetite for cheap energy, or those children who have been born with teir sexual organs deformed because of oestrogens poured into the oceans because of the use of "the pill", or the children of Africa because we have allowed our government promote a condom culture which promotes the spread of HIV and AIDS see here or those millions of children aborted in Britain since the legalisation of abortion 4o years ago.

14 comments:

Philip said...

Wow!

This is the kind of message that should be preached from our pulpits,, sorry, ambos, not the hogwash that usually passes as a sermon.

Thank you for this, Father.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Thank you Philip, It was my sermon, the stats on AIDS &HIV were in the newsletter.

Philip said...

The folks at S Mary Mag's are fortunate to have you!

Anonymous said...

Ray,
The rich man was not condemned through his ignorance or because he was rich. He would have been fully aware of the laws on tithes and offerings, of his responsibility to help the poor, widowed and orphans. He simply chose not to.
Being rich is not sinful. Jesus and his disciples relied on the rich, especially women, to sustain his earthly ministry.
Jesus warned one rich ruler (Lk 18:18) about wealth but almost immediately, (Lk 19:1)we read the story of Zacchaeus, the tax collector who was like the rich ruler but after a revelation from Jesus, gave half of his money away and then some on top! Jesus did not tell Zacchaeus to give it ALL away, and as a tax collector, Zacchaeus would still have been very wealthy after he returned his ill-gotten gains to the poor.
I always challenge those who promote the poverty Gospel to TRULY live a live of poverty. Poverty means not having enough to feed yourself of your children if you have them, or buy them school shoes or not being able to pay your rent or electricity bills. Why would Jesus want any of his children to live such a life of defeat? He didn't himself.
Riches are not sinful, but why we want them, how we go about gaining them, wanting them too much or hoarding to ourselves while ignoring tithes and offerings like the rich man who ignored Lazarus - that is sinful.
Remember, God loves a cheerful giver - so start tithing, whatever your income!

Blessings

James

Mary Fitzpatrick said...

We are fortunate indeed, Philip, and we know it! I always think that Dives was likely to suffer torment for a long time not only because he was rich and uncaring but because he continued to treat Lazarus like a slave. Please send him to help me - please send him to help my brothers etc. You'd think that he might have learnt or anyway wondered.

Fr Ray Blake said...

James, I prefer to be addressed as Father ....!


I don't claim the rich man was condemned for his wealth but for his self absorption, his inability to movefrom "self to other", wealth does bring responsibilities.
Remember what Paul vi said in Pop.Prog., quoting Ambrose,

"If we give from our excess to the poor, we not giving anything at all, merely returning that which we have abrogated to ourselves, it is only when we give from our necessities that we are being truly charitable".

Anonymous said...

Fr Ray,
Sorry I left off your title. No disrespect intended.
I don‘t wish to appear rude, but the great problem with your sermon is you began two sentences: “The great problem with wealth…” and "the trouble with wealth..." When will we hear Christians begin sentences: “The problem with poverty…”
Poverty, like riches, also causes complacency. Poverty destroys, causes people to live in bondage and brings unhappiness. Poverty can neuter our relationship with God, turn us away from Him and lead to a self-absortion which gives birth to despair, stress, ill health and premature death.
Surely, Christians need to speak of the dangers of poverty as much as riches. After all, if Jesus came to bring the Good News to the poor, surely the Good News for the poor is they don’t have to be poor any longer.

Blessings

James

Fr Ray Blake said...

James, you are right St Thomas says, it is as hard for the poor man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven as for a rich man, because of the concerns caused both by wealth and poverty.
But poverty seems to have less obligations and duties than wealth.

Henry said...

Why, I wonder, was Lazarus poor? Was it, perhaps, because of sinful structures in society?

It is for us laity to try to understand how political economy works, but sadly, I find there is remarkably little interest. At our best, we are happy to give money to good causes and offer help at a practical level, which is fine. But as for looking at underlying causes, our tendency is either to shy away from the necessary study as being "too difficult" or to ascribe it to "human sinfulness" and walk away from further discussion.

Which means that as Catholics we fail to make a proper contribution towards public discourse on the subject of Political Economy.

Surely our collective neglect of poverty at this causative level is also sinful?

Anonymous said...

Fr Ray,
The reality is, most Christians - like you - don't live in poverty, yet it is something you praise. I don't understand! Perhaps you are confusing living humbly with living in poverty?
If you are a diocesan priest, you don't even take a vow of poverty. I would not suggest you live a life of wealth and richness and take holidays in Las Vegas. But I would guess neither do you live a life of poverty. I would hazard a guess you have a (secure) roof over your head, three meals a day and perhaps use of a car? Even if your parish closed (and I pray it doesn't) you would be moved to another. In short, you would always be taken care off. Poor people have none of these securities. If poor people have no money to pay the electricity bill, it is cut off. If poor people have no money to pay the rent, they are thrown on the streets. Poor people worry about how they will live each day, let alone survive from month to month. This is poverty.
If it is so blessed - why don't you live it? Please do not think me rude. I just want to blow the myth that poverty is a blessing. If it is, why do most Christians not live in real poverty?

Blessings

James

Fr Ray Blake said...

James, I am not saying that, what I am saying is wealth brings onerous responsibilities.

WhiteStoneNameSeeker said...

I wonder if this parable also comments on chosen ignorance, as opposed to the invincible kind. Dives and his brothers appear to have been ignorant of the Law but when Dives asks that someone appear to his brothers he is told they have the Law and Prophets let them listen to them. They had, Jesus seems to be saying, easy access to the Truth.

I'm writing the story of St Jospehine Bakhita for my godchildren at the moment-she might have died as a slave, but she would not have been condemned because even in her ignorance she was seeking the face of God and trying to live according to the natural law.

Dives wealth was two fold-he had money and he had access to the fullness of the Truth as it had been revealed. That gave him whopping responsibility to Lazerus who may not have had either.

Fr Ray Blake said...

White Stone,
Yes, we are the rich man if we know Christ and keep Him to ourselves.

gemoftheocean said...

I buy it, except for the climate change business! [Billions of years ago when he earth was cyclically heating and cooling, did dinosaurs roam the earth in SUVs?] Great lesson, but don't get sucked in by the "green lies."

I suppose we could all go live in caves and be virtuous by default, but it's not realistic. One could also get down on the Chinese government for enslaving their people too.

I expect the point of the story is that one should ALWAYS cast himself or herself as "the rich man" because no matter how poor our circumstances are, you can always find someone less well off. And by comparison we are all "rich men" to people who lived in those times.