The Rich Man and Lazarus
On the fourth Sunday of the Lent, along with the Parable of the "Unjust Steward," the Church invites us to meditate also on the story of "The Rich Man and Lazarus."
Jesus tells us about a rich man, who organizes sumptuous banquets in his house, without noticing that in front of his door there is poor Lazarus. He has nothing to eat, and no one to care for him except the dogs who come to lick his wounds. Now, after their death, says Jesus, poor Lazarus finds himself with Abraham in Paradise, while the rich man suffers in a place of desolation.
It is interesting to note that throughout this story the name of this rich person is never mentioned. But the poor has a name; Lazarus. In Hebrew, it means "God helps." This name sums up the moral sense of the story. The poor needs the help of God; He has nothing but his faith in God and his conviction that the Lord will come to his aid.
The rich man has no name. Perhaps it is a literary style of Saint Luke so that each reader understands that he/she too could be that rich who does not care for the poor who is before his/her door.
There is, however, another explanation. The name is a privileged mean, even indispensable, to enter into a relation with the others. To know a person is to be able to call him by name.
The fact that in this story the name of the rich is never specified is, therefore, the sign that it is a person who has cut himself off from any real relationship with others. He has become so much the center of his own life that others do not count. He sees them without seeing them. His heart is closed. He does not see that there are people near him who need help. He does not let others be part of his life.
And indeed, after his death, he finds himself alone, while Lazarus is with Abraham. The sin of this man was therefore not to be rich, but to live only for himself. In fact, he is the real poor, for he lacks the most precious: Love.
“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”