• Text of Gospel Reading
  • In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst! There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. It is a pronounced universal teaching of the New Testament and the entire Tradition of the Church, that one of the most difficult obsticals for man to overcome in his spiritual life is possessions. As examples we have this parable, Christ’s encounter with the rich young ruler, Christ’s words, “It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of the needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” So we have this rich man. And then there’s Lazarus. The poorest of the poor—a beggar. Lazarus sat at the gate of the rich man, so destitute that even the dogs had compassion on him and came to lick his sores. The rich man is bound to his possessions. So much so that he refuses to spare even the crumbs from his table to feed the poor man at his gate. Lazarus was so poor that his desire was the crumbs from the rich man’s table. Crumbs the rich man refused to give. And so they both die—Lazarus is rewarded with life in the kingdom, and the rich man is punished in Hades. So, what do we learn from this portion of the parable? What’s Christ teaching here? There’s no particular virtue in being poor. And there’s no particular vice in being rich. The Scripture tells us that the love of money is the root of all evil, not money itself. The virtue, or the vice, lies in what you do with your money. What’s in your heart. From a human perspective, Lazarus lives a life that’s less than human. But from God’s perspective, the rich man is living a life that’s sub-human. He’s living a life below even the animals—his dogs have pity on Lazarus. He’s the one living a life against nature. Christ doesn’t even give him a name—the rich man has rejected his humanity. Fr. Michael Dahulich said this week that Lazarus is given to the rich man so that he could share his riches. And the rich man is given to Lazarus to care for his earthly needs. But the rich man rejects his salvation. So why is the poor man, Lazarus, the model Christ sets before us? It really would be a good thing for us to read occasionally the vows that an Orthodox monastic takes at his or her tonsure. In the East, the vows are things that all Christians are called to. The Christian life is one—the difference is only in degrees. And in the monastic vows, there’s one we often hear in the West translated as poverty. St. Benedict took this so far as to ban his disciples from owning anything. So in the West, the monk takes a vow of poverty and owning nothing, but the Christian in the world is allowed to have money and possessions. So you wind up with two different calls. But we just said that the call of the Christian life is one. The monk makes a vow of chastity—to be chaste from all people. The person in the world is also called to chastity—the celibate to chastity from all people, and the married to be chaste, which means faithful, with their spouse. The monk takes a vow of prayer—to pray without ceasing, and they offer services in the Church day and night, day in and day out. The person in the world is also called to a life of prayer, St. Paul says we’re all to pray without ceasing. So the person in the world offers prayer in the Church several times a week, and then goes into the world to live a life of prayer, letting his light shine before all men. In the Orthodox services, the monastic is not making a vow of poverty. He vows to pursue the virtue of non-avariciousness. If you’re filled with avarice, you want everything. If you see it, and you like it, you want to have it. The struggle in the Christian life is to not be a slave to the things of the world. To not want to have everything we see that we might like to have. There’s no vice in having money—but if we’re blessed with possessions, it’s to use them for the glory of God. Not to satisfy our every whim and pleasure. Everything we have is given by God. And we’re supposed to be good stewards of the blessings we have. To make Christ-like use of the things God has blessed us with. The rich man in the parable today is filled with avarice. He wants to have everything his heart desires. So he has no place to give to those who are less fortunate. And no place to seek God. The Christian teaching is that in life, we have only one thing that we need. Jesus Christ. The Christian seeks after God with all his heart and strength, and everything he needs to live in the world will be given to him by God. Lazarus lives at the gate of the rich man. God provides enough for him to survive. But He also provides a way for things to be better—a way that the rich man rejects. Our call is to not be slaves to the passions and pleasures of the world. But to be entirely given to Christ. Living in the world, we’ll have possessions. We’ll have jobs, and money, cars and other things. But the desire of our heart is not tied up in these earthly possessions, the desire of our hearts is Christ. Which encompasses every aspect of our lives. And then everything we need—both for life on earth and for life in the Kingdom—everything we need will be provided by God. This is His promise. Our response is to give our lives wholly to Him, to seek Him above all else, for Him to be more important to us than the very air we breathe. And then we can know what it is to hear, “well done, My good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord.” Lord Jesus Christ our God, help us to see that our only need in life is You. Glory to Jesus Christ!