The parable of the rich man and Lazarus is one of Jesus’ most challenging. It challenges us because it forces us to see that we will be judged not only on the evil that we do but on the good that we leave undone. The rich man was not evil or cruel. He didn’t order Lazarus removed from his property. He didn’t kick him or shout obscenities at him as he passed by. The sin of the rich man was that he never even noticed Lazarus. Lazarus was invisible to him. He accepted the fact that Lazarus was poor and he was rich and he saw no responsibility to help him. He didn’t do what he could have easily done. The sin of the rich man was basking in his own wealth and not lifting a finger to help Lazarus in his dire need. While God never requires us to do something we truly can’t do, he does hold us accountable for what we can. So, we need to ask ourselves who or what we don’t see and what we don’t do that we could. Is there a husband or wife starving for affection; a child who while trying as hard as he or she can is never praised and never is good enough in a parent’s eyes; a neighbor or co-worker who needs support and for whom we do not make time; a parish community that needs our time and talents that we never share; the poor of our own neighborhood and city who only get what we have left over? Albert Schweitzer was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952 for his selfless work as a medical doctor in what was then called Equatorial Africa. He died there in 1965 at the age of 90. He left fame and fortune in Europe to obtain a medical degree and serve the poor as a missionary doctor. He said that one of the reasons he did this was his meditation on this parable. “It struck me as incomprehensible that I should be allowed to live such a happy life while so many people around me were wrestling with suffering.” May we learn to see and respond as did Schweitzer. We do not want to receive the condemnation of the rich man.
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