Vugt: The rich man and Lazarus

HERE is a commentary on the Gospel for today (Lk 16:19-31) about the rich man and Lazarus. This parable deals with the worldwide gap between the rich and the inhumanly poor. There is a deadly law of money which makes the rich live separately: housing, transportation, recreation, medical care.The wall the rich man willingly built in this life becomes, after his death, an abyss that no one will be able to bridge. The one who accepts this separation will find himself on the other side forever.

A poor man named Lazarus: Jesus names the poor man, but not the rich one, thus reversing the order of the present society that treats the well to do as a person but not the ordinary worker. We also see that, on dying, Lazarus finds many friends: the angels, Abraham, the father of believers. The rich man finds neither friends nor lawyers to relieve his situation: hell is isolation.

Some people would like to know what was the rich man’s sin for which he was condemned to hell. Was it that he denied some crumbs from his table to Lazarus? The Gospel does not say this. Instead it shows that the rich man did not even see Lazarus lying at his door: Remember that in your lifetime you were well off.

The Lazarus of today are legion and are already at our door; they are known as third or forth world. On a world scale it is the more advanced countries and the privileged minorities that have taken possession of the table to which all were invited: the real power, and the culture imposed by the media. The national industries and sources of employment have been destroyed by a free exchange unimpeded by any social or moral restraint. Hundreds of millions of “Lazarus” people are marginalized and rejected until they die in misery, or through violence arising from a dehumanized life.

Modern-day Lazarus are kept at a distance from the residential areas by police, dogs and barbed wires. They would like to get their fill of the crumbs that are left over from the feast, but there are few scraps falling back to the homeland, after everything is wasted on imported products or deposited in foreign banks.Lazarus lives among dogs and rubbish: he becomes a prostitute, or a pickpocket, until a premature death enables him to find someone who loves him: at the side of Abraham and the angels.

Meanwhile, the rich person works hard, not so much to enjoy life as to convince himself that he is right: even the Church should justify him and the separation. It is this perversion of his mind that takes him to hell, after having inspired in him hatred or contempt for all those who proclaim the demands of justice taught by Moses and the prophets, that is to say, by the Bible.

The Gospel, in its desire to save the rich as well as the poor, asks us to work with a view to removing the abyss that separates them. The time for breaking down the barrier is in this life.

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