Sunday, 29 September 2013 : 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the well-known parable on the story of Lazarus the poor beggar and his counterpart, the rich man. We listened to the perils of Lazarus in this life, and after the deaths of both him and the rich man, we again listened to the suffering the rich man endured for eternity in hell.

The story shows the considerable contrast in the reality in our society, both at the time of Jesus and even today in our modern world. The rich lived in great wealth and great comfort, and the poor lived in suffering and a life of deficiency. The rich tends to get richer while the poor tends to get poorer. That is the reality, brethren, even today.

However, it is important to note that, Jesus did not condemn the rich and neither did He condemn their wealth, their money, and their possessions. What He condemned is inaction, the failure of one, whether he is rich or poor, strong or weak, to act, with love, when someone or others around them face difficulties or challenges, which we can help overcome through our actions.

The Lord our God desired that through our actions, we can look at our brethren in suffering, and offer to them a helping hand, and also, our love. That is what He truly wants from us, that we can share the love that He had given us, with one another. This is what the rich man had failed to do in his life. He failed to notice the plight of Lazarus the beggar, the poor man, leaving him to die of hunger, while he feasted every day and every night on endless flow of food and drinks.

Lazarus received his compensation in heaven, for in his suffering, he had built much wealth in heaven, by persevering through life, and presumably, doing what is good in the eyes of the Lord. He was given rest and happiness, in the company of the saints and the angels. On the other hand, the rich man, who feasted without end, and cared nothing on others, received his due, that is eternal suffering in hell.

Therefore, brethren, we are really urged to do something for others, especially those whose suffering and plight can be lessened through the touch of our love, be it in our words or our actions. Let us not be like the rich man, who ignored the plight of the weak, the poor, and the ostracised, and instead let us love them and open our hearts for them.

Today’s readings in fact highlight another important facet of our faith, brothers and sisters in Christ. In line with the first reading, and the psalm, while we have been cast out of the heavenly glory of God, all because of our sins and faults, He came to give us a new hope, in His saving power, through Jesus His Son, suffering and crucified.

Ever since our ancestors sinned against God, disobeying Him and instead, obeying the words of Satan the deceiver, we have been cast out from the presence of God, because we are unworthy, and because we have hardened our heart against God and His love. His enduring love for us however, continues to burn, with the hope that we may repent our ways and return to Him.

An infinite and uncrossable chasm existed between us and the Lord, and no one could cross this chasm, and we thought that we were doomed to hell prepared for the devil and his fellow rebels, the fallen angels. But God did not intend the hell for us, nor for any of His beloved creations. Yet, many of us throughout the ages failed to escape the snares of hell, falling into temptations of the world and its pleasures, as the rich man had done.

The great suffering in hell is in fact not the flames and heat that torture for all time, as the rich man had endured. That heat is a consequence and a part of the unending suffering that one has to go through, if one does not repent for his or her sins. The main part of the suffering is actually the complete sundering and separation of one from God, of one from the divine love that God has for all of us. That love, which sustains all of us in this world, is no longer there for those who have rejected Him and consequently fall into hell.

Without God’s love and the eternal period of one has to suffer in hell, knowing fully that there is no hope at all to redo what they had done wrongly and what they had failed to do, when they still walked this world. This hopelessness and thus despair, combined with the total separation from God and His graces, are the things that make hell so painful, so unendurable, and so despicable. Brethren, our every breath, and every good things we have, come from the Lord and His love. Can you imagine a state where we are entirely and totally devoid of any form of God’s love, for eternity, and that is hell?

That is why God constantly tried to help us, by sending His messengers through the prophets, to remind mankind of the need for repentance and purification, from the evils and the impurities of the devil inside our hearts. And yet, many of us and our ancestors turned a deaf ear to these reminders, and even slaughtered the prophets of God, spilling innocent blood, and mankind still fell into damnation.

That is why, brethren, He sent Jesus His Son, to be the great deliverance of His beloved children, from the slavery of sin and death, and from their fate of eternal punishment in hell. Jesus is the bridge, the narrow bridge that bridged the infinite chasm existing between us and God, that through Him, we may cross that chasm towards the Lord, our most loving God.

The Lord Jesus Christ  made our crossing towards the Lord possible, but as I mentioned, as much as He is the only bridge, that is the only way to salvation in God, that bridge is also very, very narrow at the same time. As such, the way to the Lord is not an easy one. We tend to face difficulties and challenges along the way, that would make us to detour from our true path, and fall into damnation, if we are not careful. After all, that path is really narrow indeed.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, once again, it must be reiterated that, God loves everyone and cares for everyone, be it that they are poor or rich, weak or strong, beggar or prince, all have a place in the Lord’s plan of salvation. God does not condemn the rich nor their wealth nor their privileges. What He condemns is the lack of charity, by anyone, even among the weak and the poor, for others.

It is these shortcomings, the lack of charity, the lack of love, and the lack of care for one another, which dooms us to failure, as we walk across the cross of salvation, that is the bridge Christ had made upon His death, to bridge the gap between mankind and their Father in heaven. In fact, as Christ had told His disciples, that to those who had been given much, much will also be expected from them. Therefore, as those who have more in terms of possessions and monetary well-being had been given a greater share of grace by the Lord, much is also expected from them, to share their joy with those who lack them, that in sharing, all the children of God will rejoice together as one.

We certainly do not want to suffer as the rich man had suffered in hell, for eternity. The way to the Lord is there, brethren, through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, but it is narrow. Let us resolve then to proceed on our way towards God without delay, and ensure that we stay on that path, by our faith in the crucified Christ and the Risen Christ, and that faith which is made alive through our love, reflected in our words and actions.

Let us therefore offer a helping hand to anyone around us who are in need of help, giving them the love, care, and attention, following the example of Christ Himself, who had given His complete and perfect love to everyone, to all of us sinners, to even His enemies who cried for His death and those who persecuted Him and the people of God.

May the Lord nurture in all of us, within our hearts, the enduring love and compassion, that from now on we will give our love to our brethren around us, sharing with them our joy and love. And the Lord who sees our obedience and faith, will reward us, with nothing else than eternal life in the presence of God, filled with joy, in the same way as Lazarus the poor beggar, had been treated. God bless us all and remain with us, within our hearts forever. Amen.

Sunday, 29 September 2013 : 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 16 : 19-31

Once there was a rich man who dressed in purple and fine linen, and feasted every day. At his gate lay Lazarus, a poor man covered with sores, who longed to eat the scraps falling from the rich man’s table. Even dogs used to come and lick his sores.

It happened that the poor man died, and angels carried him to take his place with Abraham. The rich man also died, and was buried. From hell, where he was in torment, the rich man looked up and saw Abraham afar off, and with him Lazarus at rest.

He called out, “Father Abraham, have pity on me, and send Lazarus, with the tip of his finger dipped in water, to cool my tongue, for I suffer so much in this fire.”

Abraham replied, “My son, remember that in your lifetime you were well-off, while the lot of Lazarus was misfortune. Now he is in comfort, and you are in agony. But that is not all. Between your place and ours a great chasm has been fixed, so that no one can cross over from here to you, or from your side to us.”

The rich man implored once more, “Then I beg you, Father Abraham, to send Lazarus to my father’s house, where my five brothers live. Let him warn them, so that they may not end up in this place of torment.”

Abraham replied, “They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.” But the rich man said, “No, Father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.”

Abraham said, “If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets,they will not be convinced, even if someone rises from the dead.”