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The Great Chasm
Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
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.’ Abraham replied, ‘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.’”
Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, we know that your fervent desire for us is that we rest with you, as Lazarus did with Abraham. Help us to live each day fully aware of the great chasm that you describe between those who love you and show that love to others, and those who have chosen to reject your love. In your mercy, grant us the bounty of your eternal love. Amen.
- How Stark Are the Differences: The images in this passage of Scripture are among the most vivid in the Bible. We can picture poor Lazarus, starving, sick, living among dogs who lick his sores, and we can picture the rich man in purple garments, living the high life and feasting every day. There can be no clearer message: the sufferings of this world can be, as they were for Lazarus, redemptive. And the material riches with which this world is so often obsessed can blind us to the sufferings of those literally on our doorsteps.
- How Brief Is the Time: Any graphic of comparison that we can create–a pie chart, a bar graph, cylinders of beads, whatever–cannot illustrate the brevity of our earthly lives against all of eternity. Even the very old among us have lived but a moment when placed next to the time our souls will spend in eternity. Jesus does not whitewash or sugarcoat his message. Every single one of us will live out our eternity on one side of the great chasm or the other. Moses and the prophets foretold it, and so did Jesus. When we fully absorb that truth, our lives change.
- How Great Are the Rewards: Our secular, temporal thinking leads us to consider life in increments…We hope to get a somewhat better job, find our children a little better school, move to a bigger house, trade our economy car for a fancier one. We are often rewarded when we save or study or work for our next acquisition. There’s nothing wrong with that approach to the material world, but Jesus makes it clear that the next life will not shake out that way! There will be no incremental reward in Heaven, since there will be no time. Heaven will be eternal basking forever in the glory of Our Lord. Meditating on Heaven is a fruitful way to help us spend our earthly days seeking the Lord’s glory in all of our thoughts, words, and actions.
Conversing with Christ: Lord, help me, each day, to see those who are “starving,” whether they are physically hungry or suffering, or in need of compassion, understanding, or healing. Help me to remember how your love for me has fed my soul so many times and help me bring your love to those who are suffering.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will live as though I fully understand your message—that the rewards of this life are to be shared, that our lives here are but a moment compared to Heaven, and that my choices in this life have eternal consequences.
For Further Reflection: In his Introduction to Christianity, speaking about the Last Judgment, Joseph Ratzinger summarizes the relationship between love and justice in this way: “…the unrighteousness of this world does not have the last word, not even by being wiped out indifferently in a universal act of grace; on the contrary, there is a last court of appeal which preserves justice, in order thus to be able to perfect love. A love that overthrew justice would create injustice, and thus cease to be anything but a caricature of love” (translation J. R. Foster, Ignatius Press, 1990, p. 259).
Dorothy Warner is a Washington, D.C., area writer who also works in technology and has a family. When not gardening, volunteering, or baking artisanal breads, she enjoys spending time with her husband, grown children, and a large collection of family pets.
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