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XXVI Sunday in Ordinary Time

The parable of the selfish rich man and the poor Lazarus, in our own time.

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Dear brothers and sisters, Fiat!

The parable of today's Gospel, raises a problem on the relations between rich and poor people, but it is not intended to give the poor an alienating announcement or to console him with the hope of eternal beatitude. It shows the gravity and the consequences of the indifference of the rich when he do not take care of the poor.

Jesus wants His contemporaries, and ourselves today realize the danger of complacency, comfort, worldliness in our lifestyles and in our hearts, of making our well-being the most important thing in our lives. This was the case of the rich man in the Gospel, who dressed in fine garments and daily indulged in sumptuous banquets; this was what was important for him. And the poor man at his doorstep who had nothing to relieve his hunger? That was none of his business, it didn’t concern him. Whenever material things, money, worldliness, become the centre of our lives, they take hold of us, they possess us; we lose our very identity as human beings. Think of it: the rich man in the Gospel has no name, he is simply “a rich man”. Material things, his possessions, are his face; he has nothing else.

The rich man and the poor Lazarus; The lives of these two people seem to run on parallel tracks: their life status is opposite and not at all connected. The gate of the rich man’s house is always closed to the poor man, who lies outside it, seeking to eat the leftovers from the rich man’s table. The rich man is dressed in fine clothes, while Lazarus is covered with sores; the rich man feasts sumptuously every day, while Lazarus starves. Only the dogs take care of him, and they come to lick his wounds. Lazarus is a good example of the silent cry of the poor throughout the ages and the contradictions of a world in which immense wealth and resources are in the the hands of the few.

The rich man will be condemned not because of his wealth, but for being incapable of feeling compassion for Lazarus and for not coming to his aid.

In the second part of the parable, we again meet Lazarus and the rich man after their death. In the hereafter the situation is reversed. Now the rich man recognizes Lazarus and asks for his help, while in life he pretended not to see him. Before he denied him even the leftovers from his table, and now he would like him to bring him a drink! He still believes he can assert rights through his previous social status. The door that in life separated the rich from the poor is transformed into “a great chasm”. As long as Lazarus was outside his house, the rich man had the opportunity for salvation, to thrust open the door, to help Lazarus, but now that they are both dead, the situation has become irreparable. The parable clearly warns: God’s mercy toward us is linked to our mercy toward our neighbor. He cannot enter. If I do not thrust open the door of my heart to the poor, that door remains closed. Even to God. This is terrible.

The parable helps us to make a sincere examination of conscience, in our personal life, in the family, in social life. Today more than ever, I cannot be indifferent to the great problems of humanity; perhaps I can do few things, but I must and I want to do all that I can for the poor of the earth: compassion, mercy, charity, sharing, sensitivity and knowledge of problems, prayer, conversion of the heart.

On September 2, 1908 Jesus told Luisa that the sign to know whether one has true charity is that he loves the poor. In fact, if he loves the rich and is available for them, he may do so because he hopes for something or obtains something, or because he is in sympathy with them, or because of their nobility, intelligence, eloquence, and even out of fear. But if he loves the poor, helps them, supports them, it is because he sees in them the image of God, therefore he does not look at roughness, ignorance, rudeness, misery. Through those miseries, as though through a glass, he sees God, from whom he hopes for everything; and so he loves them, helps them, consoles them as if he were doing it to God Himself. This is the good kind of true virtue, which begins from God and ends in God. On the other hand, that which begins from matter, produces matter and ends in matter. As bright and virtuous as charity may appear, if the divine touch is not felt, both the one who does it and the one who receives it become bothered, annoyed and tired, and if necessary, they even use it to commit defects.

don Marco
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