On the Rich Man and Lazarus.
PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.
My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.
On the Rich Man and Lazarus.
We read in the narrative of the Evangelist St. Luke (xvi. 14): “Now the Pharisees who were covetous heard all these things,” they heard, that is, our Lord’s warning against the unjust mammon. Instead of laying this admonition to heart, “they derided Him.” Then our Lord proceeded to speak to them of the terrible judgments that will overtake the rich man who is hardened in sin, relating to them the parable of the rich man and Lazarus the beggar. Listen in spirit to this well-known parable as it comes from our Lord’s lips, and meditate upon the truths it is intended to convey.
1st. Consider the temporal lot of the two men who form the subject of the parable. Our Lord says: “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and feasted sumptuously every day.” (v. 19.) Fortunate individual! you have wealth and possessions in abundance, your apparel is rich and gorgeous, your table is provided with delicious and costly viands. How differently poor Lazarus fares! “ And there was,” our Lord continues, “a certain beggar named Lazarus, who lay at his gate, full of sores, desiring to be filled with the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table, and no one did give him; moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.” (v. 20, 21.) Consider the words of St. Peter Chrysologus on this subject: “God so ordained that the rich man should sit at the table of the poor, and the poor man at that of the rich, in order that they might be reciprocally helpful to one another. For the disease from which the rich man suffered was that of the soul, the poor man’s that of the body. The cure of the poor man’s infirmity was delayed in order that his sores might prove the rich man’s medicine, that his lamentations might bring him to contrition, his tears induce him to do penance.” Such was God’s wise design in regard to these two men, and He is generally actuated by the same intention when He places the poor and the rich side by side on earth, that the rich may assist the poor with their temporal wealth, and the poor help the rich to obtain eternal treasures. But Dives failed to perceive God’s gracious purpose. “Lazarus was intentionally laid at the rich man’s gate,” again we quote from St. Chrysologus writings, “in order that he might not be able to say: I never saw him, no one ever told me about him. He saw him every time he went out and came in, yet he did not take compassion on him.” You are astonished at such hardness of heart, my soul, yet how common such conduct is amongst men. How often one finds people, Christian people, even those Christians who aspire to perfection, act most unfeelingly towards one another. They pass by heedlessly, especially in the case of one whose needs do not appeal strongly to the senses, or what is far more terrible, in the case of a Brother whose sufferings are of a spiritual nature. “Yet God,” St. Gregory says, “left the poor man lying at the rich man’s gate, in order that the ungodly plutocrat might increase the damnation in store for him, and the poor man, so greatly afflicted, might add to his eternal reward.”
2d. Consider the everlasting fate of the two men: “The things of time,” says St. Chrysologus, “are over and gone, what follows is of eternal duration. Lazarus and Dives both die: the former is received by the angels, the latter becomes the prey of tormentors.” For we are told: “And it came to pass that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died; and he was buried in hell.” (v. 22.) O unhappy Dives! no one can help exclaiming. Whilst angels carry Lazarus into Abraham’s bosom, where, now that the few years of suffering upon earth are at end, he will enjoy everlasting repose, is it said of the rich man that he was cast into hell? No, mark this, not cast into hell, but buried in hell. St. Augustine explains the burial-place in hell as signifying the excess of torture which consumes the proud and unmerciful after this life. “And amid these tortures he lay helpless as a dead man in the tomb, enveloped in agony,” to quote St. Chrysologus again, “his eyes alone free that he might see the felicity of the poor man.” “Instead of the music of stringed instruments,” says St. Basil, “groans now resound in his ear; instead of drinking to the full he is now devoured by intolerable craving for a drop of water; instead of unseemly plays he gazes on profound darkness; instead of vain ambition, the worm that never dieth devours him.” Oh that he could once more return to earth and there become a poor despised Lazarus! Impress deeply on your mind the picture here presented to us of future retribution, and above all, the torments of hell which our Lord describes in this parable. In the season of temptation and the hour of suffering remember the rich man’s bitter lamentation: “I am tormented in this flame” (v. 24); and in connection with to-day’s meditation bear in mind these most true words of the Imitation of Christ: “The more thou sparest thyself now, and followest the flesh, the more grievously shalt thou suffer hereafter, and the more fuel dost thou lay up for the flame.” (Imit. B. i. ch. 24.)
3d. Consider that the rich man beseeches Abraham thus: “I beseech thee, father, that thou wouldst send him to my father’s house, for I have five brethren, that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torments. And Abraham said to him: “They have Moses and the prophets” – if they will not hear them” – “neither will they believe if one rise again from the dead.” (v. 27- 31.) This lost soul imagines that the best means of preventing his brothers from sharing his own awful fate, would be to send Lazarus to them. Abraham however at once assures him that it would be quite useless to do as he proposes; if they hear not Moses and the prophets, he says, neither would they hear one who was risen from the dead. How often has experience proved the truth of those words. Look at the sinners who will not listen to the preaching of the prophets, that is, of God’s ministers, and ask yourself whether the special dispensations of divine Providence make any impression upon them. Do they not see the judgments of God accomplished daily both in the case of solitary individuals and whole nations? Do they not often see their companions in sin struck down by sudden death or overtaken by some grievous calamity? But all this does not touch them. They see these things, just as in the days of Noe men saw the ark being constructed, and like them, they eat and drink, they marry and are given in marriage, until the flood comes and swallows them up in temporal and eternal death. On one who hears not Moses and the prophets, who despises the ordinary means of grace which God has appointed for him in the Church, extraordinary visitations will very rarely produce a greater effect. Alas! even the terrors of hell and of the judgment too often do not avail to break his fetters. Passions indulged hold that man captive who has turned a deaf ear to the voice of Moses and the prophets, to the warnings of the Church, to the admonitions of his Confessor or of the Superior whom God has set over him. Reflect upon this, my soul, before it is too late.
PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.
My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.
– Meditations on the Life, Teaching, and Passion of Jesus Christ
(Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur: New York, December 31, 1900)
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