by Fr. Tommy Lane
Now is the time for conversion, when we die it will be too late to convert. That is what the rich man in Jesus’ parable in today’s Gospel painfully learned (Luke 16:19-31). How we live now has consequences for all eternity. There are riches that last into the next life and there are riches that are only for now. The rich man in the parable learned when he died that he only had the riches that are for now whereas the poor beggar whom he had ignored possessed the riches that endure into eternity. The rich man learned that so much of life which is just hoopla and show and good image, or bella figura as the Italians would say, is not real. What is real is what is in our heart where God sees, our love of God and neighbor. I wonder if the rich man were really happy. I wonder if all that feasting every day was just his way of running from the pain of emptiness in his life. Perhaps he even knew he really was poor inside - had nothing - and his feasting was just comfort eating. When he died, in an instant everything became painfully clear.
The poor man is the only one in the parable - in fact the only one in all of Jesus’ parables - to have been given a name by Jesus. This means he was a really special person. We know that in Scripture your name is important because it says something about you. Lazarus’ name is therefore very important, it speaks of God’s special love and care for him. His name Lazarus means “God has helped” and indeed when he died we see him at peace with God. He had nothing all his life excerpt deprivation and want and rejection. However in the midst of all that discomfort God sent him a small consolation, dogs came and licked him! No matter how bad things get, God sends us his consolations for us to remember! Lazarus is the one in the parable who possesses true riches even though he has nothing. Because he has true riches even though he has nothing, he is not running from emptiness or pain inside or trying to dull it in an immature way like the rich man. He is a happy person because really he has God in his heart and so he goes to be with God in the next life.
In the next life the rich man sees that he has wasted his life and wants his five brothers warned not to waste their lives like he did because now is the time for conversion and when we die it will be too late. But in the next life Abraham says to the rich man they already have Moses and the prophets, in other words they already have the Torah and the Prophets, they already have the Sacred Scriptures, the word of God. If they will not listen to the Torah or the prophets they will not listen to someone who rises from the dead. Jesus did rise from the dead to prove to all those who live like the rich man’s brothers that there is a better way to live and that how we live now has consequences for eternity. In the parable Abraham would not send Lazarus to even put a drop of water on the tongue of the rich man in the underworld. Jesus rose from the dead because he did not want people to suffer that thirst of the rich man for eternity in the next life. Jesus rose from the dead so that we might live for him because Jesus too was thirsty, thirsty for us. As he died on the cross Jesus was dehydrated and said, “I thirst.” But Jesus had a deeper thirst as he died on the cross, his thirst for the souls of everyone. Lazarus was hungry on earth, the rich man was thirsty in the flames of the next life, and Jesus thirsts for both of them, and thirsts for everyone.
It is because of Jesus’ thirst for the souls of everyone that he calls you to consider becoming his priests. You have Moses and the prophets, you have the word of God. During every Mass you encounter Jesus risen from the dead. Most of us here don’t have much money and you don’t expect to become rich because for the rest of your life your monthly salary will be just enough to cover all your needs but you have true riches, the word of God and Jesus risen from the dead. The world is desperate for these riches because the world is hungry and thirsty for God even though it doesn’t realize it or want to admit it. Like the rich man, the world is trying to dull the pain of its distance from God and its emptiness with hoopla and distractions. Just as the rich man in the next life asked for Lazarus to be sent to him and then asked for Lazarus to be sent to his brothers, the world is in desperate need of your true riches of the word of God and Jesus risen from the dead. In the second reading today (1 Tim 6:11-16), Paul, who had ordained Timothy, reminded Timothy of the riches he had to offer the world. Like Timothy ordained by Paul, you too will have riches to offer the world that it so desperately needs. You have riches to offer the world, reminding the world that Jesus is thirsting for the soul of everyone, that now is the time to convert because when we die it will be too late to convert.
Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013
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