This reflection was taken from the Sunday Mass Readings of Sept. 29, 2013:
Today’s Gospel and First Reading teach us the same lesson: Those who choose to satisfy themselves over others will one day get to watch others be satisfied over them.
First of all, this is called “typology.” That means that the complacent people of Zion (from the Old Testament) would be “types” of the rich man wearing purple in Jesus’ parable (from the New Testament). Typology shows that there are parallels between the Old and New Testaments. Take Jesus, for example. There are several “types” of Jesus in the Old Testament, meaning there are several people that represent different aspects of him. Isaac is one of these, in that he had done nothing wrong, and yet his father was still willing to sacrifice him. Obviously, the reasons for God and Abraham sacrificing their sons were different–along with the fact that Isaac didn’t actually get sacrificed–but the principle was the same: a father willing to sacrifice his son, whom he loved, for the greater good (to do God’s Will).
The rich man in Jesus’ parable apparently spent all his time ensuring his own satisfaction, while Lazarus crawled and wriggled around in the dirt outside his front door, suffering and dying. The same general thing actually happens around many of us. We pass our time in comfort, doing what pleases us, buying expensive things for ourselves, eating delicious food, while people in our community are starving and suffering. So many of us make an almost nonstop effort to please ourselves.
I’m not saying I think there’s anything wrong with being happy, or with making ourselves happy; but that shouldn’t be our first priority. When we know that people are suffering, whether it’s because they’re sick, or hurt, or without food or other necessities, it is our duty to help those people.
For example, I–with my parents’ help–recently bought something that cost about eighty dollars. I was determined that I had to have this thing, and we almost lost the bid on it on eBay. What we spent was probably a bit over the top, but the thing is very cool, and has so far fulfilled its purpose. For my part, I spent about fifty bucks, which included money my dad and I had been saving up (and as my mom will tell you, her donation was very generous).
There is nothing evil about what I did in the paragraph above. My point here is, when was the last time I doled out that much money to charity?
Jesus wants us to be selfless with what he gives us. That should make us happy. People who try to be selfless will find that, while it can be plenty of fun to get stuff, it’s even better to give than it is to receive. There’s a certain joy to giving that can’t quite be explained–the joy of knowing that you helped another person, or even that you just made that person happy. Another thing is that, when we receive, we sometimes complain that we don’t get enough; but when we give, we have no such problem.
If the Parable Man in the purple robes had thought to try that, he would have received great joy in helping Lazarus–and he probably would’ve been able to continue having such joy right on into his next life. He was obviously quite pleased with himself in this life as it was; but he would have felt even more satisfied, in the depths of his heart, knowing that he’d saved Lazarus rather than letting him lie around outside getting licked to death by dogs.
Lazarus, meanwhile, had the short end of the stick (which he may not even have had the strength to throw for his four-legged friends). He never had much of an opportunity to make anyone happy, including himself. This fact is apparent, because if Lazarus had put himself in such a wretched position, through irresponsibility, stupidity, and sin, all the Purple Parable Man would have had to do after he died to reach Lazarus would have been go next door, rather than look up towards Abraham.
This is a sign that the Lord is merciful. He recognizes that we live in a fallen world. But, despite the fact that such a falling was our fault, he still has pity on those who come into this world without half a chance. If someone suffers throughout their life, through no fault of their own, and they don’t despise God for it, the Lord will almost certainly have mercy on them and raise them up on the day of their death.
We have to listen to this parable well. Jesus himself–through Parable Abraham–says that not even the resurrection of the dead can do a better job teaching the Lord’s precepts than Moses and the prophets. In other words, since nothing is going to be able to preach to our hearts better than the Word of God, we really need to pay attention.
We can’t expect God to perform miracles before our eyes to let us know what he wants; he’s already written that on each and every one of our hearts. We must all strive to listen to God’s Will, whether it be through the Bible, the Church, our friends, or even our conscience. Always. Not just for a few hours one day a week, between when the Gospel goes in one ear and when it continues on out the other; we must try to listen to it every waking moment of our lives. We may know what we want, but we don’t always know what we need. In some cases, we may want the very opposite of what we need, even though we think that what we want is what we need; but we forget that God is the ultimate source of all true happiness. If we only accept what he gives us, which is what we need, and accept it willingly, we will find a joy the likes of which we could never make for ourselves. We’d never think that before we accepted God’s Will, but we just need to be patient. He’ll give us all the joy we could ever want, of a nature we can’t even begin to imagine, for all eternity–if we can just abide by his Will.
“Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”–Jesus Christ, Mt 19:24
by Cameron Daly