We could well be tempted to tune out from this Sunday’s message by simply declaring that we are not rich, “No, not THAT rich”! But let our conscience be pricked. We will be reminded of a “Lazarus” in our life; people who could have done with some help from us when they appeared in our life. If we didn’t see him, then rich or less rich, this reading is calling out to us. Because likewise, the purple rich man did not ‘see’ Lazarus at all in his life.
This is yet again not about being rich but about how we can be blinded by our quest to accumulate wealth for oneself. Money can buy us a lot of fun; short term worldly happiness leading to self-gratification and vainglory. When we are bored with one option, our accumulated wealth allows us to move on to another. The world offers us a wealth of options; lifestyles that will constantly distract us from living an authentically good life.
We begin to get blind when we see more value in spending our next dollar to “dress in purple and fine linen and to feast magnificently every day” rather than to share it with the “poor man Lazarus” who is always ‘sitting’ right before our eyes. This is no debate against wealth but a consideration about what we do with wealth. Being rich is not about how much we have but about how much we give.
Being wealthy is a blessing. It is a blessing of opportunities. The richer we are the more opportunities we have to live an authentically good life. But it is a double edged sword. When we spurn opportunities to use our blessings to do good for others, we create a rift between our spiritual and worldly lives. When we continue to ignore “Lazarus”, the rift widens into a “great gulf”. Yet this gulf remains cross-able as long as we are alive, if we take the opportunity to use our next dollar and expend it to do good for others.
Conversely wealth is this doubled edged sword. It becomes a curse when we continue to spurn opportunities till we are “dead and buried” and then regrettably we end up like “the rich man in purple looking up at Lazarus” for “between us and you a great gulf has been fixed”.
Before we are dead and out, we have everyday opportunities to choose a lifestyle to “fight the good fight of the faith and win for yourself the eternal life to which you were called”. We have to fight, for disguised under the fine clothing of our worldly needs is the devil of vainglory.
A quote from Dr. Edward P Sri, a professor in theology about vainglory:
“Yet even devout Christians are susceptible to this vice when they plan their lives around the standards of happiness and success set up by the world. For example, a part of us might hope to gain respect from old friends and family members for having a successful career, wearing the latest fashions, having children succeed in school, living in a nice home, etc. These are not evil pursuits in themselves, but they can distract us from pursuing Christian ideals such as charity, generosity, simplicity, and humility. If these worldly pursuits hinder us from living a truly praiseworthy life-a life of virtue and holiness-then we may be seeking the vain glory of this world more than the glory of God.”
We have a wealth of money, time and gifts. They can be used to ensure we end up eternally beside Abraham, regardless of whether we were wearing purple.
26th Sunday in Ordinary Time