BY: Fr. Johnbosco Obika



Luke 16:19-31

“Between you and us there is fixed a great abyss, so that those who might wish to cross from here to you cannot do so, nor can anyone cross from your side to us.” (Luke 16:23).

For about two consecutive Sundays now the gospel has been talking about the consequences of mismanagement of earthly wealth. Today’s gospel continues with Jesus’ teaching on handling of temporal goods. Jesus wants us to look into the gulf and “abyss” that stratify and divide us into the rich and the poor, the privileged and the less privileged. He calls us to fill the gap now before it is too late. The story of the anonymous rich man and the poor Lazarus provides us with material for reflection this Sunday.

**The wicked is “unknown” to God**
Jesus did not name the rich man but named the poor man as Lazarus in gospel. We can say that because the rich man did not know God, therefore God did not know his name. This is without prejudice to Jeremiah 1:5. Jesus says in the gospel of John, “I am the good Shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me” (John 10:14). God knows his own! Moreso, because the rich man did not love God, therefore he was unknown to God. St. Paul also tells us: “The man who loves God is known by God” (1 Corinthians. 8:3). However, the poor Lazarus knew God, loved and trusted him in spite of his poverty. In fact, the Hebrew name Lazarus means God is my helper. It really tells how this poor man looked up to God and heaven while on earth. Truly, help comes from God (Psalm 121:2), and our help is in the name of the Lord (Psalm 124:8). It is indeed an agony not to know God.

**Everyone will die!**
Both the anonymous rich man and Lazarus died. Everyone must surely die one day. Death is the only thing that makes both the rich and the poor equal. Lazarus went to heaven, the rich man went to hell. It is important to know that
Lazarus did not go to heaven because he was poor. Being poor is not a direct ticket to heaven. One can be poor and miss heaven. Someone can be poor and at the same time wicked, bad, hateful, arrogant and not a friend of God (mmadu ibu ogbenye buru amusu- to be poor and a witch at the same time). But Lazarus went to heaven because he trusted in God, was a friend of God. The anonymous rich man went to hell not because he was rich but because he trusted in himself and his in riches, not recognizing the source of his riches which is God, and the purpose of his riches which is serving God through the poor. He failed to recognizing God as the master and himself as the steward; his wealth was God’s gift to the poor.

**Indifference is a deadly sin**
Unfortunately, most of us are enmeshed in materialism to the point that we cannot see the sufferings of others around us. For instance, the Oga or Madam who pretends they do not know that their Umu–boy (servants and maids) are suffering. Some “men of God” who milk their to congregation to penury and pretend it is well with their souls and heaven is the reward.
The lecturers who extort students and close their eyes to their sufferings in our various tertiary institutions. The government who pretends all is well when workers are being owed for months. Some politicians who pretend, argue and maintain with every logic in their mouth that things are moving fine in our country: the masses are happy, the workers are paid, roads are built, employment rate has increased.
If God punished the rich man who did not help the poor with his hard earned money what would happen to those that refused to give the poor what rightly belongs to them?
Most of us feel obliged to help only our own. The Lazarus of today’s gospel was neither the rich man’s family member nor his friend. He was not his employee either. The bible did not mention that the rich man maltreated Lazarus. He did not chase him away from his house. The money he was enjoying was his wealth; the fruit of his labour. In fact, No human court would sentence the rich man. However, the rich man had the wherewithal and everything it takes to change the situation of Lazarus but ignored him. He lived in luxury while Lazarus languished in penury. He slept in big mansions while Lazarus slept in front of his gate. He feasted everyday but Lazarus managed to survive by eating pieces that fell from his table. He flourished in robust health as Lazarus crawled with cancerous wounds. All these boil down to the sin of indifference, negligence and omission. On the last day, we will not be judged only by the sins we committed but also by the good we ommited. In the final analysis, it is going to be between us and the good we did or the good we did not do.

**Close the abyss before it is late**
We still the have the opportunity to mend fences and build bridges while we are still alive. Everyday is an opportunity to help the poor. We cannot obviously deny or pretend they do not exist or they are ok. No, they exist and they are not ok. They are everywhere: in our families, churches and communities. They are on the streets, roads, everywhere.

May our Lord Jesus Christ who has given us his word to reflect on today help us to live it out and be stewards for the poor. Amen. HAPPY SUNDAY.

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