Fr. Justin Sheehan, OCSO
2nd Thursday of Lent
Social justice warriors might read this morning’s parable as an invitation to blame the rich for being rich, and praise the poor for being poor. After all, the rich man is not said to have done anything bad, nor the poor man to have been especially devout or good. So Jesus must be teaching the Marxist doctrine that wealth is sin, and that poverty is virtue, like some candidates for the presidency.
But of course that is not the point of the parable. Jesus is teaching that heartless wallowing in luxury, with naked, starving beggars at the gate, is a sin which brings on God’s punishment. The fact that the rich man does nothing for Lazarus is what leads him to the place of torment. The rich man was not condemned because he dressed in purple garments and fine linen, nor because every meal had been a festival, but because, while he was living like that, he totally ignored Lazarus, and used his wealth only for his own gratification, like some other candidates for the presidency.
Lazarus is only mentioned as a means of bringing out the rich man’s heartlessness and self-indulgence. Occasionally he may have gotten some of the scraps that accidentally fell from the rich man’s table, but he got nothing from the rich man himself. That the dogs came and licked his sores does not seem meant as either alleviation or aggravation, but simply as vividly describing his passive helplessness and utterly neglected condition. Neither he nor anyone else drove them off.
But the main point about him is that he was lying at the rich man’s door, and therefore should have been noticed, but he got no help. The rich man was under no obligation to go and hunt for poor people, but here was an in-your-face poor man. Translate that into our daily lives, and it means that we all have opportunities to do good to those who come across our path, and that our guilt is heavy if we neglect these.