Lazarus means ‘God is my help.’
Imagine this scene. A man dies and arrives before the Judgment Seat of God. The divine Judge goes through the Book of Life and does not find the man’s name. So He announces to the man that his place is in hell. The man protests, “But what did I do? I did nothing!” “Precisely,” replies God, “that is why you are going to hell.”
This weekend again the readings challenge us on stewardship. Are we a good steward? I do not remember anywhere in the Scriptures where Jesus condemned the wealthy simply for having wealth. He condemned those who allowed their wealth to make them forget about the God who had blessed them so generously, like the farmer we heard a couple of weeks ago. He had such a great harvest that he had to tear down his barns to build bigger ones and he gave no thought to the eternal life. Or Jesus condemned those who allowed their wealth to lead them into dishonesty like the unjust steward we heard about last week. Or Jesus condemned those who allowed wealth to make them selfish and self-centered like the rich man in today’s Gospel.
The poor man Lazarus was lying at his gate. And the rich man simply couldn’t care less. In the meantime dogs went and licked Lazarus’ wounds. And the poor man died. Of course the rich man did nothing against Lazarus. But he has failed to do a good deed.
We are not told the rich man acquired his wealth by foul means. We are not told he was responsible for the poverty and misery of Lazarus. We are not told he committed any crime or evil deed. All we are told is that he was feeding and clothing well as any other successful human being has a right to do.
Whenever we sin/mistake, we think we commit sin/mistake by our thoughts, words and action. Most of the time we forget, we commit sins of omission. In the prayer “I Confess” we say these words: “I have sinned through my own fault, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do.” This is what happens to the rich man, he failed to reach out and share a little of his blessings with someone in need.
In the first reading, God, through His Prophet Amos, warned people of the coming downfall of the Northern Kingdom of Israel because of its disrespectful, and arrogant treatment of the poor and the needy by the rich and powerful. In the second reading, St. Paul instructs the first century Judeo-Christians to become true stewards of the Gospel of Jesus, the only mediator, by preaching the “Good News” to the gentiles and by including them in intercessory prayers, too.
The first and second reading brings connection with the Gospel story and invites us to reflect on stewardship. There are many Lazarus’ at our own gates, in our own families, and in our neighborhoods. They are the people that we easily overlook, dismiss, or ignore.