Twenty Second Sunday
Today our Lord draws back the drapery over the mysterious portion of eternity that particularly includes judgment and we get an insight that perhaps is somewhat disturbing. Just beyond creation in paradise with Adam and Eve, we already begin to understand that although we are autonomous we are accountable and answerable for even the minutest details of our lives.
Today we see that nothing escapes the witness of God's eyes. Just as immediately after sinning and separating themselves from the presence of God, Adam and Eve wandered about, trying to avoid the source of their being. They were obtuse, but God is not. In that instance, Scripture reveals for our benefit: "The Lord God then called to the man and asked him, `Where are you?"' Genesis 3: 9. Of course our Lord is questioning them so they realize without a doubt they have placed themselves by their own choosing outside of the dominion of God. And of course, in salvation history, this is not an isolated incident. What makes it unique is that Christ sheds light on the gory details.
There is a noticeable parallel in today's parable. With Adam and Eve it is spiritual death and today we witness not only the result of spiritual death, but its most frightening effect: physical death. In the beginning God laid bare the results of man's sinfulness and today once again there is obviated we reap what we sow. With Eli the Old Testament priest at Shiloh and his two priest sons we are also given insight to accountability. Samuel the Prophet and Judge chides the old priest about the sinful behavior of his priest sons and commands him to correct them. All the overly indulgent father does is say, "Now boys, behave." He does nothing to bring about an abandonment of their sinfulness and they continue to play their games. Samuel did warn Eli his sons would be desperately punished and so would he unless there was a total change in their lifestyle. Just because all were fat dumb and happy ignoring our heavenly Father did not at all indicate God lost sight of them. When the two sons were struck dead, Eli was so shocked he fell over and banged his head on the stone floor hard enough to put him out of his own misery as well. Every where we look in God's revelation to us, we pile up higher and higher examples of accountability as even with the case of Judas. And of course, we can include our own unrepented sinfulness in the story. Unless we confess, unless we repent, unless we overcome our deviousness, we will enjoy the uninterrupted company of the rich man in today's gospel narrative.
And while our proclivity to sin is recognized, it is our pride which keeps us from reconciling quickly with the Saviour. Just as in the case of Adam and Eve, the devil first approaches us and encourages us into sin by telling us how great we are, how much we can function without the grace of God and how bright we will be at our own devices. The rich man was literally delighted his intelligence, his gifts led him to become actually overwhelmed with the riches of the world. He felt so good about himself that he could never enter into the mentality of the beggar at his door. He worked hard and knew he deserved success because he concentrated on his life goal to achieve it. When money literally piled up for him, he was not surprised, but was confounded with the presence of Lazarus seeking after some of the benefits of his treasure. So his simplistic thinking leads him to believe just as he is not to blame for his own successful massing of riches, so he is not to be accountable in helping alleviate the stresses of the unfortunate Lazarus.
St. Luke has a sense of humor in describing the situation. The rich man with all his giftedness does not even possess the common sense of ordinary humanity. A man in desperate need needs help. The dogs of the neighborhood attempt to provide some palliative concern and lick the wounds of Lazarus! What a story this tells of the soul of one who is astoundingly blessed but has so drugged himself with self importance he does not recognize the painful need of the less fortunate. Christ points out Lazarus as accepting his status in life without complaint while the attitude of the rich man is that of a hopeless cynic.
The lesson in the story does not end in the economic differences or disparities between the two. It is an emphasis on the spiritual values espoused by both. The life of the soul is laid bare and in eternity the situation is reversed. Lazarus is revealed to have attained the richness of character virtue while the rich man has not even rags, but is grotesquely naked, left all alone with the littleness of his gross sin.
Accountability takes place. Both have to give an answer for their lifestyle. With the little he has of the world, the enriched soul of Lazarus streams far to the forefront of victory. The rich man is left behind in the dust of judgment.
Our blessed Church teaches that immediately after death, the soul experiences an immediate judgment which is a premonition of the eternal status it will be endure. It is our prayers which can free the soul if freedom is necessary, to be finally led to the graceful mercy of our Creator and Judge. In this life Christ is our Saviour and Redeemer. In the next life He assumes the awesome status of our just and righteous Judge.
In another instance, our Lord confirms the mind of our heavenly Father: "If I had not come among them and did what no one else ever did, he would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen the signs and miracles and yet they have hated both me and my Father. This is to fulfill what is written in their Law; `they hated me without reason"' John 15: 24, 25. As a result of your lifestyle, where will you spend eternity? If we are destined for the place of the rich man, we can change that all now so that we can sing with the beggar in the bosom of Abraham.