At first glance we might wrongly assume that the rich man in today’s gospel was condemned simply because he was wealthy. We don’t know how much money he had in the bank, but that’s not really the issue. The real problem was the gap between the rich man and Lazarus. This man had more than enough, and yet Lazarus couldn’t even meet his basic needs. The rich man could have done something to help Lazarus, but he didn’t. And that’s why he ended up in Hell.
We live in conditions that the rich man of the gospel would envy. We’ve grown up in a society where it’s considered normal to have more than one car, houses, time saving gadgets, and food in abundance, so much food that we can throw much of it away. And yet there are still people who consider themselves lucky to have one meal a day and a shed or a tent to sleep in. In most of our big towns and cities people can still be found sleeping rough on the streets and in shop doorways.
Today’s gospel offers us the chance to examine our attitudes towards wealth and money. Following Our Lord’s teaching, the Church tells us that money isn’t something that is exclusively ours to use as we please. As Religious we own nothing personally, and yet everything we have for our use ultimately comes from God, and God wants us to share them, especially if we have more than we need; and it’s not just money, but our time, our talents and our presence. And sometimes, if the need is great enough, we should share even out of our necessity. Giving to those who are destitute is not just a matter of generosity or charity; it’s a matter of justice. It’s something we owe to those in need because they are our brothers and sisters.
Today’s gospel tells us that we can bring heaven a little closer to earth, even if it’s for just one person. When we alleviate someone’s need and suffering, we are helping to make God’s kingdom a reality, right here in the present. We become a sign of the way things will be in heaven, when every tear will be wiped away and everyone will be treated as equals.