The Prelate’s Sermon, Sunday, March 20
The fourth spiritual ladder of the Great Lent is entitled the “Sunday of the Steward” after a parable which our Lord Jesus Christ told to His Disciples in Luke 16. I would like to focus on the next parable told by our Lord in the same chapter about “Poor Lazarus and the rich man.”
A certain rich man feasted sumptuously every day, while at his gate lay a poor man, named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. Both Lazarus and the rich man die․
In Hades, the rich man in his torments looked up to see Lazarus embraced in the bosom of Abraham. The rich man beseeched Abraham to send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool the rich man’s tongue. The request was denied for no one could cross the great chasm which exists between the two worlds.
The rich man asks for a final favor to send Lazarus to earth and alert his five brothers about the fate which awaits them. Abraham replies that they have Moses and prophets as directions, and that they should pay close attention to the laws and prophecies. The rich man insists in his plea by saying, “if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” Abraham finalizes the dialogue by saying, “if they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone visits them from the dead” (Lk 16:19-31).
As much as parables are used for educational purposes and provide the listeners with a clue for comprehending the message to be delivered, yet this parable, I believe has a unique character. It unveils all the mysteries of ages, and makes the listeners not just spectators but participants in a real situation. If it is possible, I would like to call this parable “The Time Machine” which transfers us to witness realities yet to happen to Mankind and then brings back to the present reality. Hence it is directed to make us aware, fully to understand and appreciate the present for the sake of our future, which is the eternal present. This is a fact which is relevant to all generations. Hence, I would like to share a few thoughts from this great parable which mirrors the eternal truth in time.
- The Source of Life through this simple parable makes clear that each person’s life with an adjustment is a continuous existence. As much as material necessities will not be functional anymore, yet each and every person preserves their identity with all its characteristics as we note in this parable that a person can see, perceive, hear, talk, suffer, and more.
- The suffering as much as it is described in material form to quench the thirst makes us aware that we will be suffering eternally from spiritual thirst for the Living Water which only Jesus Christ gives (Jn 7:37). It was granted to us freely, yet by ignoring and denying Him in this world, we will never be able to quench our thirst.
- The bosom of Abraham refers to such a blissful condition in the life to come for all those who believe in Almighty God. Abraham “believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness” (Gen 15:6), and he was privileged to be the ancestor of a multitude of nations (Gen 17:5), i.e., believers in God. Thus, he stands as a metaphor of Him who said, “come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28).
- This scene of Hades and the bosom of Abraham once again assures us that we should seriously consider the very fact, stated by our Lord Jesus Christ on different occasions, that awesome reward and deplorable punishment are the unavoidable consequences of our acts (Jn 5:29). Otherwise, the Lord and ultimate Judge would not have admonished us by saying “Blessed are you” to those on the right side but “Woe to you” who are on the left side (Mt 25:31-46).
- Abraham’s response that he cannot help the rich man makes us aware that the present time is the time for mercy. Saint Paul says, “Now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor 6:2). No one can help us in our eternal damnation: neither our beloved ones nor the saints. As our fore-parents, by disregarding God’s commandment, by exercising free will erroneously were expelled from the bliss of Eden, likewise we will be expelled of God’s presence forever if we fail to heed His commandments.
- With a final attempt, the rich man asks a favor from Abraham on behalf of his brothers, beseeching Abraham to send Lazarus back into world and to advise the surviving brothers not to live imprudently. His request was declined, for Abraham objectively states that “if they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”
Twenty centuries later, this dialogue which assumedly happened in the life to come, echoes in our ears. Incredibly loving and caring, our heavenly Father welcomed the rich man’s impossible request, and sent His Only Begotten Son to us, to tell, to warn and to invite us to be attentive to what is expected from us. The suffering, the damnation, the famine, the thirst unfortunately are endless. It is like an unending highway where there is no more exit to rest, to refresh, to enjoy. Nevertheless, there is the blissful journey of life, which is true and eternal when we follow God.
Let us harken and humbly ask our Compassionate Father to enlighten our minds, hearts, and souls with His Living Word, and to direct our thoughts, deeds, and behavior with the almighty power of His Holy Spirit to enjoy with the poor man all the bounties in His Bosom of eternal Life and Joy, praising the All-Holy Trinity. Amen.