‘My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented.
Prayer for the Poor
Who is Jesus to me?
Jesus is the Word made Flesh.
Jesus is the Bread of Life.
Jesus is the Victim offered for our sins on the Cross.
Jesus is the Sacrifice at Holy Mass for the sins of the world and mine.
Jesus is the Word – to be spoken.
Jesus is the Truth – to be told.
Jesus is the Way – to be walked.
Jesus is the Light – to be lit.
Jesus is the Life – to be loved.
Jesus is the Joy – to be shared.
Jesus is the Sacrifice – to be given.
Jesus is the Bread of Life – to be eaten.
Jesus is the Hungry – to be fed.
Jesus is the Thirsty – to be satiated.
Jesus is the Naked – to be clothed.
Jesus is the Homeless – to be taken in.
Jesus is the Sick – to be healed.
Jesus is the Lonely – to be loved.
Jesus is the Unwanted – to be wanted.
Jesus is the Leper – to wash his wounds.
Jesus is the Beggar – to give him a smile.
Jesus is the Drunkard – to listen to him.
Jesus is the Little One – to embrace him.
Jesus is the Dumb – to speak to him.
Jesus is the Crippled – to walk with him.
Jesus is the Drug Addict – to befriend him.
Jesus is the Prostitute – to remove from danger and befriend her.
Jesus is the Prisoner – to be visited.
Jesus is the Old – to be served.
To me Jesus is my God, Jesus is my Spouse, Jesus is my Life, Jesus is my only Love, Jesus is my All in All, Jesus is my Everything.
(By Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta)
O God, who manifest your almighty power
above all by pardoning and showing mercy,
bestow, we pray, your grace abundantly upon us
and make those hastening to attain your promises
heirs to the treasures of heaven.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity
of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Am 6:1a, 4-7
Thus says the LORD the God of hosts:
Woe to the complacent in Zion!
Lying upon beds of ivory,
stretched comfortably on their couches,
they eat lambs taken from the flock,
and calves from the stall!
Improvising to the music of the harp,
like David, they devise their own accompaniment.
They drink wine from bowls
and anoint themselves with the best oils;
yet they are not made ill by the collapse of Joseph!
Therefore, now they shall be the first to go into exile,
and their wanton revelry shall be done away with.
This warning of the prophet Amos, who was only an uneducated shepherd before God called him to the prophetic ministry, does not come from Amos but from God, in whose name he spoke. God’s Chosen People, to whom he had in his goodness given the land of Canaan to be their homeland for all time, were about to lose their land and their freedom, because they had forgotten their divine Benefactor and thought only of themselves and their own comfort.
While the well-to-do, to whom Amos speaks, were wallowing in luxury and sin, there were thousands of their fellow citizens who went short of the bare necessities of life. This did not worry these selfish, self-centered egoists. Nor did the warning sent them through the prophet awaken any sense of guilt in their long-silenced consciences. They continued their licentious way of life until finally the wrath of God caught up with them. They lost not only their luxuries; they lost their freedom and their homeland forever.
Is there not a very practical lesson for our day and age in these words uttered nearly three thousand years ago? Four fifths of the wealth of our world is in the hands of one fifth of the population of this earth. To translate this into practical cash means that for every 80 dollars a relatively wealthy man has to spend on himself, four of his less fortunate brothers have to survive on 5 dollars each. The proportion is even worse in parts of our world. There are thousands dying of sheer hunger in many parts of the under-developed nations, while most, if not all, of these countries are continually living on the border-line of starvation.
Even in the wealthy parts of our world the inequitable distribution of goods, which God gave for all, is a disgrace to our humanity. The leftovers from a banquet of company directors would feed a poor family of ten for a week. The price of the second or third car in the rich family’s garage–a mere status symbol to keep up with the Joneses–would keep three poor families in bread and milk for more than a year. We wonder why our world is in turmoil. We are annoyed by protest marches and shocked by the absurd demands of civil rights groups. Agitators and up-setters of our “status quo,” we call them! Lazy, good-for-nothings is what they are! We ask why they do not provide for themselves, though we have taken all the provisions! We are disgusted that they will not bake bread for themselves when we have locked all the flour in our safes!
Communists have come forward with a specious answer–the state own everything, no individual has any rights to possess personal property, each one works for the common good and all things are evenly divided. An excellent solution for the proper distribution of the goods which God put in this world for man’s use if, but what an if, all men were honest and free from sinful selfishness. There are millions in the communist countries who know from sad experience that, apart from any religious tenets, the system of common possession of all the goods of the earth, will not work unless men become angels and then they will not need the goods of this earth!
The answer to this pressing problem is, of course, a return to Christian justice and charity. Thank God, there are moves in this direction in the last decade. We have societies giving of their time and of their personal property, to help their less fortunate brethren at home and abroad. We have brave, generous young men and women who are dedicating their lives to teaching others how to help themselves. Every true Christian should be ready to lend a hand to help these apostles of Christian justice and charity. Many cannot do much because of their own straitened circumstances, but there are few who cannot spare a little of their time and of their possessions to help a neighbor who is in greater need.
Today, take a little time out to look at your way of living. It may not be the type of luxury condemned by God through Amos. It may have lots of little comforts and extras however, which you would not miss but which would be a boon and a god-send for a poorer neighbor. Please God you may be able to boast that you have never been unjust to a fellowman, but were you always, and are you now, charitable to all your neighbors? If your Christian justice and charity are as they should be you are playing a big part in making this world what it ought to be and what God wants it to be–a home for all his children.
Ps 146:7, 8-9, 9-10
Praise the Lord, my soul!
Blessed he who keeps faith forever,
secures justice for the oppressed,
gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets captives free.
Praise the Lord, my soul!
The LORD gives sight to the blind.
The LORD raises up those who were bowed down;
the LORD loves the just.
The LORD protects strangers.
Praise the Lord, my soul!
The fatherless and the widow he sustains,
but the way of the wicked he thwarts.
The LORD shall reign forever;
your God, O Zion, through all generations. Alleluia.
Praise the Lord, my soul!
1 Tm 6:11-16
But you, man of God, pursue righteousness,
devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness.
Compete well for the faith.
Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called
when you made the noble confession in the presence of many witnesses.
I charge you before God, who gives life to all things,
and before Christ Jesus,
who gave testimony under Pontius Pilate for the noble confession,
to keep the commandment without stain or reproach
until the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ
that the blessed and only ruler
will make manifest at the proper time,
the King of kings and Lord of lords,
who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light,
and whom no human being has seen or can see.
To him be honor and eternal power. Amen.
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
CCC 52 God, who “dwells in unapproachable light”, wants to communicate his own divine life to the men he freely created, in order to adopt them as his sons in his only-begotten Son.1 By revealing himself God wishes to make them capable of responding to him, and of knowing him and of loving him far beyond their own natural capacity.
CCC 66 “The Christian economy, therefore, since it is the new and definitive Covenant, will never pass away; and no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ.”2 Yet even if Revelation is already complete, it has not been made completely explicit; it remains for Christian faith gradually to grasp its full significance over the course of the centuries.
CCC 2145 The faithful should bear witness to the Lord’s name by confessing the faith without giving way to fear.3 Preaching and catechizing should be permeated with adoration and respect for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
CCC 2641 “[Address] one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart.”4 Like the inspired writers of the New Testament, the first Christian communities read the Book of Psalms in a new way, singing in it the mystery of Christ. In the newness of the Spirit, they also composed hymns and canticles in the light of the unheard-of event that God accomplished in his Son: his Incarnation, his death which conquered death, his Resurrection, and Ascension to the right hand of the Father.5 Doxology, the praise of God, arises from this “marvelous work” of the whole economy of salvation.6
1 1 Tim 6:16, cf. Eph 1:4-5.
2 DV 4; cf. 1 Tim 6:14; Titus 2:13.
3 Cf. Mt 10:32; 1 Tim 6:12.
4 Eph 5:19; Col 3:16.
5 Cf. Phil 2:6-11; Col 1:15-20; Eph 5:14; 1 Tim 3:16; 6:15-16; 2 Tim 2:11-13.
6 Cf. Eph 1:3-14; Rom 16:25-27; Eph 3:20-21; Jude 24-25.
All Christians are “men of God,” for through our baptism we have been made new men, sons of God. We are no longer mere mortal men. We are no longer mere citizens of this world. We are destined for a new, everlasting life in heaven. So even though we are not bishops or official leaders in the Church, we are all, in our own way, preachers of the Christian faith to others. St. Paul’s instruction to Timothy therefore, applies to all of us. Each one of us must be a witness, a testimony, to our fellow-Christians and to non-Christians, of the faith that is ours.
We must seek after “integrity” that is, our lives must correspond with our faith. The Christian who is unjust in his dealings with his fellowman is not only sinning against God and his neighbor, he is also betraying the faith he professes. Instead of being a light to lead others to the faith, he is a hindrance to people who might feel attracted to it. He will have a lot to answer for.
We must practice the virtues of faith, hope and charity, but especially charity, the queen of all the virtues. It is how one treats one’s neighbors who need spiritual or temporal aid, that it will distinguish the true Christian from the nominal one. There are Christians who try to excuse themselves from helping others by saying that they have more than enough to do to look after themselves. If they act on that false premise, they certainly will have more than enough to do to get to heaven, in fact they will fail ignominiously. The Christian who ignores his neighbor on the road will not stay long on the right road himself. He has left it already when he makes such a statement.
We must be “steadfast” in our Christian way of living. Life has many difficult moments for all of us. We must be ready to take the rough as well as the smooth. The boxer in the ring, whom Timothy is told to imitate, must be ready, and know how to take blows as well as to give them. He knows he is not dealing with a punch-bag. So, too, we must be willing to bear sufferings when God sends them to us, and to remain as close to God in the storm as we do in the calm. This is steadfastly living the Christian faith.
We must develop a gentle spirit, a spirit of kindliness towards all. Many devout Christians seem to think that they are obliged to frown all the time on this sinful world of ours. They often see evil where there is none. They feel they must have the hard word of disapproval for even minor departures from their own Christian standard. The gentle, kindly Christian, will always try to make allowances for others’ weaknesses, and when out of true Christian charity he corrects his erring brother, it will be in a truly gentle and kindly way. St. Francis de Sales said one catches more flies with a spoon of honey than with a barrel of vinegar.
Finally, we must “take a firm hold of the everlasting life to which we were called,” on our baptism day. We were then made brothers of Christ, heirs to heaven and adopted sons of God. Our life’s span on earth is really a homeward voyage to our true home. We must ever keep our eyes on the compass of faith, we must see to it that no storm blows us off course. When the going gets hard let us remember our leader, Christ Jesus, who for our sakes bore the tortures of crucifixion. Our sufferings will never be as severe as his, and we are suffering for our own sake.
Jesus said to the Pharisees:
“There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen
and dined sumptuously each day.
And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores,
who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps
that fell from the rich man’s table.
Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.
When the poor man died,
he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham.
The rich man also died and was buried,
and from the netherworld, where he was in torment,
he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off
and Lazarus at his side.
And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me.
Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue,
for I am suffering torment in these flames.’
‘My child, remember that you received
what was good during your lifetime
while Lazarus likewise received what was bad;
but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented.
Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established
to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go
from our side to yours or from your side to ours.’
He said, ‘Then I beg you, father,
send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers,
so that he may warn them,
lest they too come to this place of torment.’
But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets.
Let them listen to them.’
He said, ‘Oh no, father Abraham,
but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
Then Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets,
neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.'”
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
CCC 336 From its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession.1 “Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life.”2 Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God.
CCC 633 Scripture calls the abode of the dead, to which the dead Christ went down, “hell” – Sheol in Hebrew or Hades in Greek – because those who are there are deprived of the vision of God.3 Such is the case for all the dead, whether evil or righteous, while they await the Redeemer: which does not mean that their lot is identical, as Jesus shows through the parable of the poor man Lazarus who was received into “Abraham’s bosom”:4 “It is precisely these holy souls, who awaited their Savior in Abraham’s bosom, whom Christ the Lord delivered when he descended into hell.”5 Jesus did not descend into hell to deliver the damned, nor to destroy the hell of damnation, but to free the just who had gone before him.6
CCC 1021 Death puts an end to human life as the time open to either accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ.7 The New Testament speaks of judgment primarily in its aspect of the final encounter with Christ in his second coming, but also repeatedly affirms that each will be rewarded immediately after death in accordance with his works and faith. The parable of the poor man Lazarus and the words of Christ on the cross to the good thief, as well as other New Testament texts speak of a final destiny of the soul–a destiny which can be different for some and for others.8
CCC 1859 Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent. It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God’s law. It also implies a consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice. Feigned ignorance and hardness of heart9 do not diminish, but rather increase, the voluntary character of a sin.
CCC 2831 But the presence of those who hunger because they lack bread opens up another profound meaning of this petition. The drama of hunger in the world calls Christians who pray sincerely to exercise responsibility toward their brethren, both in their personal behavior and in their solidarity with the human family. This petition of the Lord’s Prayer cannot be isolated from the parables of the poor man Lazarus and of the Last Judgment.10
1 Cf. Mt 18:10; Lk 16:22; Pss 34:7; 91:10-13; Job 33:23-24; Zech 1:12; Tob 12:12.
2 St. Basil, Adv. Eunomium III, I: PG 29, 656B.
3 Cf. Phil 2:10; Acts 2:24; Rev 1:18; Eph 4:9; Pss 6:6; 88:11-13.
4 Cf. Ps 89:49; I Sam 28:19; Ezek 32:17-32; Lk 16:22-26.
5 Roman Catechism 1, 6, 3.
6 Cf. Council of Rome (745): DS 587; Benedict XII, Cum dudum (1341): DS 1011; Clement VI, Super quibusdam (1351): DS 1077; Council of Toledo IV (625): DS 485; Mt 27:52-53.
7 Cf. 2 Tim 1:9-10.
8 Cf. Lk 16:22; 23:43; Mt 16:26; 2 Cor 5:8; Phil 1:23; Heb 9:27; 12:23.
9 Cf. Mk 3:5-6; Lk 16:19-31.
10 Cf. Lk 16:19-31; Mt 25:31-46.
We have here a story of two men whose states, both in this life and in the next, are dramatically opposed. The rich man had everything a man could desire on this earth and he set his heart on this wealth, to such a degree that he excluded all thought of God or of what followed after death. It was not that he was ignorant of God or of a future life (our Lord was addressing the parable to the Pharisees); he admits that he had Moses and the prophets, but he paid no heed to them. He was too busy trying to squeeze the last ounce of pleasure out of his few years on earth.
On the other half of the picture we have a beggar, a man not only in dire destitution, but suffering bodily pains as well. He bore his lot patiently. He was quite content if he got the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table, which he probably did not always get. He must have been disappointed that this rich man never thought of giving him a helping hand but there is no mention of his ever criticizing or blaming him. He left these things to God.
Both men die eventually. The beggar goes straight to heaven to a state of endless happiness. His bodily sufferings have ended forever, he will never be in want again. The rich man fares very differently. His enjoyments are over forever. He is now in torments and he is told that he can expect no relief. They will have no end. Abraham tells him why he is in his present state: he abused his time on earth. He sees the truth of this. He knows that he has no one to blame but himself which must add greatly to his torments. It is also a cause of additional grief to him that his bad example will lead his brothers (his fellowman) to a like fate.
All the parables of our Lord are based on everyday happenings. While we hope and pray that the case of the rich man described here is not an everyday occurrence. We cannot doubt but that such cases have happened and will happen again. This rich man is not in eternal torments because he was rich and even very rich, but because he let his wealth become his master and forgot God and his neighbor and his own real welfare, eternal life. There are men like him in our world today, men who completely ignore their real future. While they are convinced that their stay on this earth is of very short duration and that they will have to leave it very, very, soon, they still act and live as if they had a permanent home here.
This is true not only of those who try (ineffectively most probably) to keep from their minds all thought of a future life, but even of some who openly profess to be Christians and who recite so often the words of the Creed: “I believe in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” Yet, they are so busy trying to get the wealth and the pleasures of this life, or to increase all they have of them already, that they haven’t a moment to spare for the thing that really matters–their future unending life after death.
God forbid that any of us should be numbered amongst these foolish people, for there is no greater folly on earth than to miss the real and only purpose in life because of a few trivial, passing attractions. We are not forbidden to have some of this world’s goods. We need some, and God it was who provided them for our use. But we must use them properly and we must not set them up as idols to be adored. On all sides of us there are Lazarus’s placed at our gates by God to give us an opportunity to exercise fraternal charity. Be a true brother to them now and you will not have to envy them hereafter.
If on the other hand your lot is that of a Lazarus–and many there are whose life is one long, continual struggle against poverty, disease and hardship–try to carry your cross patiently. Envy of your neighbor and rebellion against God will only add to, and do not cure, your ills. The day of judgment, which for you will be the day of reward, if you are humble and patient, is around the corner. Eternal happiness is worth twenty lives of earthly ill-fortune.
Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission from Franciscan Press.
The Theology of Littleness
The theology of littleness is a basic category of Christianity. After all, the tenor of our faith is that God’s distinctive greatness is revealed precisely in powerlessness. That in the long run, the strength of history is precisely in those who love, which is to say, in a strength that, properly speaking, cannot be measured according to categories of power. So in order to show who he is, God consciously revealed himself in the powerlessness of Nazareth and Golgotha. Thus, it is not the one who can destroy the most who is the most powerful – in the world, of course, destructive capacity is still the real proof of power – but, on the contrary, the least power of love is already greater than the greatest power of destruction… The essence of religion is the relation of man beyond himself to the unknown reality that faith calls God. It is man’s capacity to go beyond all tangible, measurable reality and to enter into this primordial relation. Man lives in relationships, and the ultimate goodness of his life depends on the rightness of his essential relationships… But none of these relationships can be right if the first relationship, the relationship with God, is not right. This relationship itself, I would say, is, properly speaking, the content of religion.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
The Ship of Life
Steer the ship of my life, Lord, to your quiet harbor, where I can be safe from the storms of sin and conflict. Show me the course I should take. Renew in me the gift of discernment, so that I can see the right direction in which I should go. And give me the strength and the courage to choose the right course, even when the sea is rough and the waves are high, knowing that through enduring hardship and danger in your name we shall find comfort and peace.
Saint Basil of Caesarea (ca. 330-379)