Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are presented by the Scriptures the importance of being righteous in our ways, as shown by the story of Lazarus and the rich man as Jesus had told it to His disciples. Those who are righteous will be rewarded with great rewards by God, while those who are wicked and follow the path of sin will be rejected by God.
The story of Lazarus and the rich man apparently showed how the rich and the powerful oppressed the poor and the weak. But Jesus was not against the rich and the powerful because of what they have and what they possess. However, it was the actions and the deeds of those people that were denounced by Jesus through His story on Lazarus.
The rich man lived lavishly and partied day and night, as what many rich and powerful people at that time normally do. Meanwhile, Lazarus was the poor man who was always hungry and as he was jobless and without money, he was unable to provide for himself, and had to depend on begging for a living. But no one gave him anything or took pity on him, including the rich man who lived on as if nothing else matters other than his own happiness.
Lazarus therefore died in agony and pain, and according to the story of Jesus, he went to Paradise, where he enjoyed with Abraham and the saints. In contrast, the rich man when he died, he went to the depths of hell, where he suffered greatly and in constant agony, in some sorts of a reversal of roles. Lazarus suffered in this world, and he received the succour of happiness and eternal rest in heaven, and the rich man suffered for eternity though he lived in joy in the world.
In this story, which many of us are quite familiar with, as we have heard it from our catechism classes, or from our parents, or by our reading of the Scriptures, we have witnessed what both heaven and hell are like, what it is like for us to enjoy the eternal bliss and happiness in heaven, or for us to suffer eternally in hell. But many of us think of heaven and hell in terms of happiness and suffering, in worldly terms. We always think of hell as a very hot place with fire and the torture of flames.
But in reality, the suffering in hell is so great not because of flames or any other worldly forms of sufferings. It is the separation that we have to endure for eternity which leads to the suffering we have, the despair present in our hearts. And the suffering is so great because we know that there is absolutely no hope for escape and redemption, for then it will be too late for us, when there is no more turning back for us. And we will know true suffering when God Himself has been separated from us, God Who has created us, and Who is the reason for our very existence.
And that, brothers and sisters in Christ, will be our fate if we do not turn our back to sin and continue to commit whatever is wicked and sinful in the sight of God and men alike. God is ever loving and ever merciful, but His mercy will not have any impact on us if we do not act accordingly in order to accept that mercy into our own lives. Remember that we cannot be servant to two masters, meaning that we cannot be faithful to God and at the same time remaining a sinner without repentance.
In addition to this, we also need to realise that sin is not merely just caused by our actions, for those are the sins of action and wickedness. What we have heard in the Gospel today shows us the sin of omission, that is to ignore what we could have done when we are perfectly capable of doing something to help and contribute to those who need our help.
The rich man could have done something to help Lazarus with all that he had possessed in life, all the food and drink that he had consumed. But he did not lift his fingers to do anything to help him, and left him hungry, homeless and suffering at his doorsteps, even though inside his house, food and drink flowed on without stopping. He could have done something to alleviate the suffering of the poor ones like Lazarus, but he did not do so.
He therefore committed the sin of omission, which many of us certainly had done before as well, during some parts or moments in our life. We are often guilty of ignoring those brethren of ours who are in need, and who are looking for our help. We are often blind against the sufferings and the needs of those around us, because we have been accustomed with serving our own needs and wants first, at the detriment of our fellow brethren.
In this season of Lent therefore, it is time for us to reevaluate our lives, our actions and all the things we have done so far in our lives. It is time for us to see if we have brought about good things for each other, or whether by our actions or by our lack of actions we have caused sufferings for others around us, or by ignoring those who are in need. In this time of Lent, each and every one of us as Christians are called to restrain our human desires and greed, and to deepen the love, mercy and forgiveness we have for one another.
Let us all help one another and love tenderly and graciously just as the Lord our God has loved us first. Let us make use of this time of Lent to practice almsgiving and penance, being generous in our gifts and help for those who are less fortunate than us. Let us all share the joy and the blessings that God had given us, so that no one may ever suffer any more as Lazarus had, and helping one another, being reminded of the suffering of those who have sinned and refused to repent, let us all strive to seek for the heavenly glory promised by God to all those who remain true and faithful to Him.
Let us remember that Jesus did not condemn the rich, for the rich and those blessed by God with more worldly blessings have in fact been given the means by which they will be able to help their less fortunate brethren. Rather, what the Lord condemned, is the attitude which many of us often exhibited, clinging stubbornly and jealousy to our wealth and possession that we end up being greedy as well as ignorant to the plight of the poor and the less fortunate.
May the Lord bless us all and bless all of our endeavours during this season of Lent. May He empower each and every one of us to live faithfully in accordance with the ways which the Lord had shown us, that by walking in His path, we may find our way to eternal life and salvation. May God be with us all, now and forevermore. Amen.