Sins of Omission
We have another parable in this week’s Gospel – The Parable of Dives and Lazarus. Dives is a very rich man – that is not his actual name – ‘dives’ is Latin for rich. He lives a life of luxury, feasting every day and wearing fine clothes. By contrast we have Lazarus, a very poor man lying at the rich man’s gate who is covered with sores and so hungry, that he hopes to get some of the scraps that fall from the rich man’s table. Then both of them die. Lazarus goes to Heaven where he is at peace and the rich man ends up in Hades, which is the realm of the damned or Hell, where he is in torment. It is not possible to pass from one side to the other. The condition is fixed for ever. It’s worth pointing out here that while many today might find the idea of Hell untenable, it is clearly taught in Scripture and by Our Lord, and this is just one example.
We should note that Dives is not condemned to Hell for any direct sins he committed, but for sins of omission. He could have helped Lazarus but he failed to do so. Neither did he have to do anything dramatic like give all his wealth away. He only needed to show Lazarus some compassion, even as he continued to enjoy a good life himself. But instead he chose to ignore him.
So this parable shows us very powerfully how great wealth can cause us to fail in charity towards the poor and needy and that this can possibly cause us to lose eternal life. And last week’s Parable of the Unjust Steward taught us that the things we have in this world don’t really belong to us. God has blessed us with them so as we may bless other people. The Church also stresses the importance of sharing our time and talents, and being generous in spirit. Spending time with a lonely person and giving to worthwhile charities are all important elements in being a follower of Christ.
So the message is we cannot ignore those who are suffering around us. Or put another way, we cannot go to God without our brothers and sisters around us who are suffering. Who is the Lazarus in your life? Who is the person who is needy, or suffering or sick who needs your help?
Fr Paul Gillham, IC