The Great Reversal
In today’s parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, the rich man is enjoying life with fine food, expensive clothes and a beautiful home. Outside his gate is poor, sick Lazarus, hungry and covered with sores. On one level the story is simple – surely the rich man could have offered Lazarus a crust of bread. But at a deeper level, this story isn’t just about the rich helping the poor. It’s much more than that. In the second half of the story, both men die and their roles are reversed. The rich man is shocked to find himself suffering in Hell and Lazarus is delighted to find himself in Heaven, with Abraham.
Jesus was not condemning the rich man for having money and many material goods but rather for being enslaved by them and thus blinded to the suffering of others around him. The fact that the rich man demands that Lazarus serve him by ‘dipping the tip of his finger in water and cooling his tongue’ indicates he is a proud man who considers himself a valuable member of the community who thinks he deserves to be saved. However, in the final judgement, the question the rich man and each of us must answer is: How have you responded to the commandment of love? Simply avoiding evil is not enough. We are expected to bear abundant fruits of love, kindness, mercy, and generosity towards our brothers and sisters in need.
Notice also that in this parable, only the poor man is given a name. It’s Lazarus, and the word Lazarus means “one who God helps.” To have a name is to be valuable and for God to give you a name means that you are really special in His eyes. This indicates that Lazarus loved God and trusted that even though he suffered here on earth, a Heavenly reward awaited him. The rich man was not given a name. A person without a name is a person without a vision, without a purpose, who lacks faith in God and seeks only selfish comfort and pleasure in this life.
Jesus exhorts us: “Stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” (Mt. 25: 13). That’s when we discover that the tables have been turned. That’s when those who had it all are left with nothing, while those with nothing are given the keys to the Kingdom (Lk. 6: 20-26). This is what’s known as The Great Reversal and it horrifies the rich man in today’s parable. His problem is that the rules of this world don’t apply in Heaven. In God’s Kingdom, the lowly are lifted, the hungry are filled, the high and mighty are torn down and the proud are scattered (Lk. 1: 51-54).
Are you prepared for The Great Reversal? If not, there’s no time to waste.
Take a look around: Who is Lazarus waiting at your gate? Who are the poor you’ll see today? They might not be materially poor, but they could be poor in friendship, poor in health, poor in hope, poor in joy…
Reach out to them. Welcome them in.
May God love and bless you!
Sr. Kathleen Fitzpatrick, IHM