Papal Homilies (Luke 16:19-31)
Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man
March 13, 2013 – Present
Thursday, 12 March 2020
This rich man’s information did not reach his heart, he could not be moved by the tragedy of others. He was not even able to call one of the boys who served in the kitchen and say: “Take him this, that, or the other…”. The tragedy of information that doesn’t penetrate the heart. This happens to us too. We all know, because we have heard it on the television news or seen it in the newspapers: how many children suffer from hunger in the world today; how many children do not have the necessary medicines; how many children cannot go to school. We know of continents affected by this tragedy: we know. “Eh, poor things…”. And on we go. This information does not penetrate our heart. And many of us, many groups of men and women live in this detachment between what they think, what they know, and what they feel: the heart is detached from the mind. They are indifferent. Just as the rich man was indifferent to Lazarus’s pain. There is the abyss of indifference.
Here we know the name of the poor man, we know it: Lazarus. Even the rich man knew it, because when he was in the underworld he asked Abraham to send Lazarus, he recognised him there: “Send Lazarus” (see v. 24). But we do not know the name of the rich man. The Gospel does not tell us what the name of this “Sir” was. He had no name. He had lost his name. He had only the adjectives of his life: rich, powerful… so many adjectives.
This is what selfishness does to us: it makes us lose our real identity, our name, and leads us to evaluate ourselves and others only in terms of adjectives. Worldliness contributes to this. We have fallen into the culture of adjectives, in which your value is what you have, what you can do, but not your name: you have lost your name. Indifference leads to this. Losing your name. We are only “the rich”, we are this, we are that. We are the adjectives.
We ask the Lord today for the grace of not falling into indifference, the grace that all the information we have about human suffering might penetrate our hearts and move us to do something for others.
April 19, 2005 – February 28, 2013
Sunday, 30 September 2007
Today, Luke’s Gospel presents to us the parable of the rich man and poor Lazarus (Lk 16: 19-31). The rich man personifies the wicked use of riches by those who spend them on uncontrolled and selfish luxuries, thinking solely of satisfying themselves without caring at all for the beggar at their door.
The poor man, on the contrary, represents the person whom God alone cares for: unlike the rich man he has a name: “Lazarus”, an abbreviation of “Eleazarus”, which means, precisely, “God helps him”.
God does not forget those who are forgotten by all; those who are worthless in human eyes are precious in the Lord’s. The story shows how earthly wickedeness is overturned by divine justice: after his death, Lazarus was received “in the bosom of Abraham”, that is, into eternal bliss; whereas the rich man ended up “in Hades, in torment”. This is a new and definitive state of affairs against which no appeal can be made, which is why one must mend one’s ways during one’s life; to do so after serves no purpose.
This parable can also be interpreted in a social perspective. Pope Paul VI’s interpretation of it 40 years ago in his Encyclical Populorum Progressio remains unforgettable. Speaking of the campaign against hunger he wrote: “It is a question… of building a world where every man… can live a fully human life… where the poor man Lazarus can sit down at the same table with the rich man” (n. 47).
October 16, 1978 – April 2, 2005
October 2, 1979 – Yankee Stadium Mass
On various occasions, I have referred to the Gospel parable of the rich man and Lazarus. “Once there was a rich man who dressed in purple and linen and feasted splendidly every day. At his gate lay a beggar named Lazarus who was covered with sores. Lazarus longed to eat the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table” ( Lk 16 :19 ff.). Both the rich man and the beggar died and judgment was rendered on their conduct. And the Scripture tells us that Lazarus found consolation, but that the rich man found torment. Was the rich man condemned because he had riches, because he abounded in earthly possessions, because he “dressed in purple and linen and feasted splendidly every day?” No, I would say that it was not for this reason. The rich man was condemned because he did not pay attention to the other man. Because he failed to take notice of Lazarus, the person who sat at his door and who longed to eat the scraps from his table.
Nowhere does Christ condemn the mere possession of earthly goods as such. Instead, he pronounces very harsh words against those who use their possessions in a selfish way, without paying attention to the needs of others. The Sermon on the Mount begins with the words : “Blessed are the poor in spirit”. And at the end of the account of the Last Judgment as found in Saint Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus speaks the words that we all know so well: “I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink. I was away from home and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing. I was ill and in prison and you did not come and comfort me” ( Mt 25 :42-43).
The parable of the rich man and Lazarus must always be present in our memory; it must form our conscience. Christ demands openness to our brothers and sisters in need—openness from the rich, the affluent, the economically advanced; openness to the poor, the underdeveloped and the disadvantaged. Christ demands an openness that is more than benign attention, more than token actions or half-hearted efforts that leave the poor as destitute as before or even more so.
All of humanity must think of the parable of the rich man and the beggar. Humanity must translate it into contemporary terms, in terms of economy and politics, in terms of all human rights, in terms of relations between the “First”, “Second” and “Third World”. We cannot stand idly by when thousands of human beings are dying of hunger. Nor can we remain indifferent when the rights of the human spirit are trampled upon, when violence is done to the human conscience in matters of truth, religion, and cultural creativity.
SOURCE: The Holy See Archive at the Vatican Website © Libreria Editrice Vaticana