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“If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?”

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

 

Lazarus suffered right in front of the rich man’s home.  At any time, on any day, at any passing of the gate, the rich man could easily have relieved his suffering.

The rich man did not see Lazarus.  He paid him no mind.  He looked past him.  Lazarus was invisible to him.

If the rich man had been guilty of murder, adultery, theft – then surely Jesus would have mentioned this.  He is told as wearing fine clothes and eating very well.  The rich man was not known for being evil, he was known for being rich.  He had not an evil reputation.

However, that irrational part of God’s creation, the dogs, did what their Maker would have them do – lick the wounds of Lazarus – while that rational part of creation formed in the image of God, the rich man, chose to ignore him.  The dogs condemn the rich man, for he refused to open his eyes and learn pity even from the dogs.

St. Augustine says, “Of these two then, tell me, which died well, and which died ill? Do not ask the eyes, return to the heart. For if ye ask the eyes, they will answer you falsely.”

Jesus says earlier in this chapter in the fifteenth verse, “for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.”

By refusing to look after Lazarus, the rich man who was so proud in this world became a beggar of drops of water in the afterlife.

A person who cuts himself off from other people and from his God locks himself in a prison of his own making.  The rich man locked his own self into the place of torment.  There is a fundamental continuity within God’s creation between this world and the next.  “Life here fashions our eternal destiny.”

The rich man requests Father Abraham to send Lazarus first to cool his lips and then to return from the dead and go to his brothers.  By telling Abraham that his brothers will listen to a man returned from the dead, the rich man thus implies that he himself had not been adequately warned.  This is a form of self-justification.  Abraham disputes the logic of the request.  For example, in St. Matthew’s Gospel, Herod thought that Jesus was St. John the Baptist risen from the grave but yet that did not cause him to repent of his wicked ways.

The juxtaposition of the existences of the rich man and poor man would have simply been a classical reversal of fortune story except that the poor man lay at the rich man’s gate.  He had before him opportunities without number to do the right thing, but did not, for he had not love.

St. John Chrysostom says, “He died then indeed in body, but his soul was dead before.  For he did none of the works of the soul.  All that warmth which issues from the love of our neighbor had fled, and he was more dead than his body.”

The rich man was absorbed by the things of the world and did not renounce them in his heart.  He was owned by his possessions instead of holding them in trust for the Lord.  He was a slave to the things of this world.  He loved his things and not his suffering neighbor.

Sin is being without Christian love.  The rich man did not love his neighbor.  That lack of love led to profound and eternal consequences.  Think:  His ignoring his neighbor at his gate led to his damnation.  His lack of charity towards others led to an eternity without charity for himself.

Fr. Melville Scott said, “Lazarus, borne by loving angels, is placed next to Abraham at the feast of Paradise, as the beloved S. John was placed next to Christ at the last supper, enjoying rest and comfort, the most blessed companionship and affection, but Dives has no place here in a home of love into which he is spiritually incapable of entrance.  In Hades he awakes to gaze on the gulf he himself has fixed; to endure the flame of remorse he himself has kindled, and the parching thirst contracted in his desert life of selfishness.  He has made his own punishment….”

The rich man says that his brothers will repent if Lazarus is sent to them.  This acknowledges that they have something of which to repent and that he ought to have repented during his life.  Effectively, he admits that he sinned.

But see how the rich man started accepting his guilt after suffering anguish in hell, not during his life of comfort.  This realization grew from the consequence of his sin and was not efficacious.  True penitence springs from realizing the wrong you have done or sorrow for hurting others, not from sorrow from hurting yourself.  “I’m sorry that I got caught” is not true repentance.

Even when through his anguish the rich man sees his sin and is moved to ask of Abraham, what he asks first of Abraham is relief from that suffering.  The rich man’s selfishness becomes more perfect in Hades.  He recognizes it more clearly, yet he also acts within his selfishness more perfectly as well.  He has trapped himself in his own torment.

Even in death, the rich man tries to cut deals and manipulate.  Even in death, he seeks to control the fate of others, after he has so poorly controlled his own fate.

Here we see again the profound continuity of life here and beyond.  The rich man in Hades remains attached to the things of this world and suffers accordingly; Lazarus no longer is attached, no longer suffers, and rests peaceably, nestled with his people.

Father Crouse says, “What does it mean that the rich man is in hell?  It is not some arbitrary punishment visited upon him from outside; it is simply the description of the parched, tormented soul which has rejected the love of God.  That is what hell is: nothing more, and nothing less than the practical denial of God’s love.”

This ‘hell as separation from God’, of course, is not some wishy-washy “spiritual” but actually materialist understanding of frowning at people and thus earning a well-deserved reputation as a sourpuss.  Rather, this is the actual existential personal reality of rejecting the bonds of love which unite us with our heavenly Father and our brothers and sisters and ending in everlasting torment without the love of either other people or God.

That the rich man did not commit sins that were audacious in the eyes of the world, of his family, or of his friends does not make those sins any the less wicked.  God cares not for the fashion of this world.  Clever insults and droll jabs can leave their mark in hurting others and can show a disdain for the God-given beauty and integrity and salvation-worthiness of our neighbor that God will forgive but will not ignore.

We create our own notions of righteousness, our own ‘philosophies of life’.  But we are judged by the one eternal God’s judgement according to his righteousness.  We create our own systems of value to justify ourselves, whereas we should be like the Publican who stood afar off, asked God to have mercy upon him, and justified God.

Love of neighbor and love of God are fundamentally bound together.  “God is love” is quite correct.  How we live and love is the greatest adventure of our lives!  But it is so difficult to live out.

This loving each other involves willing the best and highest good for each other and acting in accordance with that will.  This is a very tall order.  How can we do this?

Jesus says, “With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.”

How we can start is this.  Every day, examine your conscience.  Find your faults.  Acknowledge them before the Lord.  Resolve not to do them again.  Ask the good and gracious and loving Lord for forgiveness.  That is repentance.

Brothers and sisters, I commend to you to seriously confess your sins during this mass.

I commend to you to make your private confession to Fr. Nick or another wise and discrete priest of the diocese.

But I absolutely implore you to go home, remember your sins, and fall on your knees and say, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner!”

 

“If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?”

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

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