St Luke 16:19-31

Today's section of St Luke's Gospel is the story of Dives and Lazarus:

19 Homo quidam erat dives, qui induebatur purpura et bysso, et epulabatur quotidie splendide. 20 Et erat quidam mendicus, nomine Lazarus, qui jacebat ad januam ejus, ulceribus plenus, 21 cupiens saturari de micis quæ cadebant de mensa divitis, et nemo illi dabat: sed et canes veniebant, et lingebant ulcera ejus. 22 Factum est autem ut moreretur mendicus, et portaretur ab angelis in sinum Abrahæ. Mortuus est autem et dives, et sepultus est in inferno. 23 Elevans autem oculos suos, cum esset in tormentis, vidit Abraham a longe, et Lazarum in sinu ejus: 24 et ipse clamans dixit: Pater Abraham, miserere mei, et mitte Lazarum ut intingat extremum digiti sui in aquam, ut refrigeret linguam meam, quia crucior in hac flamma. 25 Et dixit illi Abraham: Fili, recordare quia recepisti bona in vita tua, et Lazarus similiter mala: nunc autem hic consolatur, tu vero cruciaris: 26 et in his omnibus inter nos et vos chaos magnum firmatum est: ut hi qui volunt hinc transire ad vos, non possint, neque inde huc transmeare. 27 Et ait: Rogo ergo te, pater, ut mittas eum in domum patris mei: 28 habeo enim quinque fratres: ut testetur illis, ne et ipsi veniant in hunc locum tormentorum. 29 Et ait illi Abraham: Habent Moysen et prophetas: audiant illos. 30 At ille dixit: Non, pater Abraham: sed si quis ex mortuis ierit ad eos, pœnitentiam agent. 31 Ait autem illi: Si Moysen et prophetas non audiunt, neque si quis ex mortuis resurrexerit, credent.

 [19] There was a certain rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen; and feasted sumptuously every day. [20] And there was a certain beggar, named Lazarus, who lay at his gate, full of sores, [21] Desiring to be filled with the crumbs that fell from the rich man' s table, and no one did give him; moreover the dogs came, and licked his sores. [22] And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham' s bosom. And the rich man also died: and he was buried in hell. [23] And lifting up his eyes when he was in torments, he saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom: [24] And he cried, and said: Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, to cool my tongue: for I am tormented in this flame. [25] And Abraham said to him: Son, remember that thou didst receive good things in thy lifetime, and likewise Lazareth evil things, but now he is comforted; and thou art tormented. [26] And besides all this, between us and you, there is fixed a great chaos: so that they who would pass from hence to you, cannot, nor from thence come hither. [27] And he said: Then, father, I beseech thee, that thou wouldst send him to my father' s house, for I have five brethren, [28] That he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torments. [29] And Abraham said to him: They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. [30] But he said: No, father Abraham: but if one went to them from the dead, they will do penance.[31] And he said to him: If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they believe, if one rise again from the dead.

Commentary (de Lapide)

Ver. 19...Was clothed in purple and in fine linen. The one denoting luxury and pride, and other softness and effeminacy. There are some, says S. Gregory, who do not think that extravagance in apparel is a sin. But if it were not so, the Word of God would not have so directly stated that Dives, who was tormented in hell, had been clothed in purple and fine linen. No one seeks fine clothing but out of vainglory, in order to appear better than his fellow-men.

And fared sumptuously every day. The Greek ευ̉φζαινόμενος signifies both gladness and feasting. So Dives, not content with the richness of his banquet, sought to add to the pleasures of the feast the delights of music, dancing, and whatever else could add to his enjoyment. Forgetful of the future, perhaps not believing that there was any future at all, he lived without God, a follower of him who bids men “eat, drink, and enjoy themselves, for death makes an end of all delights.” He lived as they live who “take the timbrel and harp, and rejoice at the sound of the organ. They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave” (Job xxi. 12, 13).

Hence S. Gregory teaches that we cannot indulge in revelling without sin. For when the body is given up to the enjoyment of the feast, the heart is led away to empty rejoicing. As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play” (Exod. xxxii. 6).

Conversation generally follows after a feast, for when the appetite is satisfied, the tongue is let loose. Hence Dives is fitly described as desiring water to cool his tongue, for feasting ministers to gluttony, wantonness, pride, evil speaking, envy, and many other vices...

S. Chrysostom (hom. De Lazaro), enumerates nine grievous ills to which the poor man was subjected:

1. A poverty so extreme, that he could not even obtain the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table.
2. A disease so grievous and so weakening, that he was unable to drive away the dogs which gathered round him.
3. Desertion by all, even those who ought to have aided him.
4 The constant sight of the rich man’s happiness, for his bodily pains and his grief of mind were increased by the knowledge, that they who were possessed of every enjoyment had no thought or consideration for him.
5. The hard heartedness of the rich man, who passed him by, without a kind word or look.
6. His loneliness, for “it is pleasant to have a companion in misfortunes.”
7. Uncertainty as to the future, for since the coming of Christ, faith in the resurrection of the dead is a wonderful support in affliction.
8. The long continuance and constancy of his sufferings.
9. The loss of reputation, for many thought that his sufferings were a direct punishment for some great crime. But, like another Job, he bore all his trials with fortitude and an undaunted mind. Hence God has set forth Lazarus, Job, Tobias and S. Lydwina, whose sufferings are recorded by Sirius, to be as long as the world last examples of patience to all who are sick and afflicted

Ver. 22.—And it came to pass that the beggar died, of disease, misery, and want.

And was carried, i.e. his soul was conducted with honour for the soul after death needs no actual carrying. Observe here the office of the angels; for S. Chrysostom says, if we need guides then we are changing from one country to another, how much shall we need some to lead the way when the disembodied soul is on its passage to futurity. He further adds, “Ye saw the poor man at the rich, man’s gate: ye see him now in Abraham’s bosom; ye saw him surrounded by dogs: ye see him in company of the angels; ye saw him poor, famished, struggling: ye see him happy, filled with good things, and possessed of the prize. Ye saw his labours: ye see his reward.”...

You ask, What is Abraham’s bosom, and where situated?  S. Augustine (lib. iv. De Anima) replies, “It is the place of rest in which are received after death the souls of all who are imitators of the faith and piety of Abraham. The place which before Christ was the ‘limbus patrum,’ but now is heaven, the paradise of the blessed. Hence the Church sings, “Martin rejoices in Abraham’s bosom—Martin, here poor and mean, enters heaven abounding in wealth.”...

The rich man also died, and was buried. “The man who had so buried his soul in drunkenness and self-indulgence that it was useless and dead within him,” says S. Chrysostom; who goes on to give a touching description of the change which had now come over Dives. “Consider,” he says, “the pomp in which he had lived, the flatterers and friends which were wont to seek his company, and the luxury which had surrounded him: and now all had departed. Everywhere nothing but dust and ashes, lamentation and weeping; no one to help him, no one to call back his soul. Of what avail were his riches, now that he was taken away from all his dependents and left deserted, defenceless, and neglected, left alone to bear in his own person an intolerable punishment?”

In hell, i.e. “in purgatory,” says James Faber, who thinks that the rich man, after suffering the purgatorial fires, was saved. But others understand here the place of the damned, and hold that the rich man had received his condemnation, an interpretation which is supported by the after narrative, particularly by the 26th verse; and indeed, this is the proper signification of the word “hell,” which—in the Greek, άδης, from the primitive particle α, and ίδειν, to see—means a place of darkness, where there is neither seeing nor light.

But you will say, We do not read that the rich man sinned, save inasmuch as he fared sumptuously every day, which as a venial sin was deserving of purgatory, but not of hell.

I answer, that although to fare sumptuously is a venial sin, yet if it leads to evil and to excess, especially if it is productive of selfishness and a disregard of the poor, it becomes mortal, and this must happen to him who is a slave to his appetite, for as I have said (ver. 19), a man cannot at the same time serve his belly and his God. The rich man therefore was damned on account of these sins, and chiefly because of his neglect of Lazarus. For he was bound, under peril of committing mortal sin, to minister to the need of the poor man, and since he did not do so, he became liable to the punishment of hell.
“For it is robbery,” says S. Chrysostom “to keep what we have received, and to refuse to others a share in our abundance.” Again he adds, “the rich man was tormented, not because he was rich, but because he had no compassion.” So also S. Gregory of Nyssa.

Hear also S. Hieronymus (Epist. 34, ad Julianum): “The flames of hell received the purple-clad Dives. But the poor and suffering beggar, whose sores the dogs licked, who scarcely could maintain himself on the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table, is carried into Abraham’s bosom, and comforted by the Patriarch with a parent’s care. For it is difficult, nay impossible, to enjoy both present and future possessions; to fill here the belly, there the soul; to pass from delights to delights; to be first in both worlds, and to appear glorious both in heaven and on earth.”

Hence S. Basil (serm. 1, De Jejunio) says, “Beware of luxury, for the rich man is tormented, not because of his evil deeds, but because of his self-indulgent life.” For they who are indulgent to themselves are harsh and unmerciful to others. They take away what the poor man needs to minister to their own unnecessary enjoyments, as this glutton did, not only from Lazarus, but also from the other poor. For, adds S. Chrysostom, “If he had no pity on him whom time after time, as he went out of his house and returned to it again, he was compelled to see lying at his gate, on whom has he ever had compassion? He therefore was content that they should die of hunger, cold, and disease. So to this very day there are some rich men who are liberal in their banquetings, illiberal to the poor—who spend pounds on one feast alone, but grudge a penny for the relief of those in want. Thus they who always study themselves, neglect others, and consume everything on their own pleasures. For gluttony is a master passion and says, “All is for me, nothing for thee.”

He lift up his eyes. The eyes not of his body, but of his mind. God showed the rich man Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom, that, says S. Chrysostom, “he might be the more tormented, not only from the nature of his punishment, but also from seeing the estimation in which Lazarus was held. For as the sufferings of Lazarus, when a prey to so many evils, were increased by the sight of the rich man abounding in good things, so now the sight of Lazarus, in his turn comforted, was to Dives an increase of misery.” Hence S. Gregory (hom. 40) and after him the Gloss says: “We must believe that before the judgment the wicked see the just at rest, and are tormented by their happiness, and also that the just behold the wicked in torment, that their joy may be increased as they look upon the evils from which they have been mercifully preserved.”...

In short, all these things set forth, after the manner of a parable, the extreme misery and torment of the rich man; and also that the blessed are not able to render any aid to the damned, nor indeed have they the wish to do so, inasmuch as they are persuaded that this would be contrary to the fixed purpose of God. Furthermore, the damned do not dare to ask this aid, for they on their part know that they are separated by a great and impassable gulf from those who have entered into rest.

Hence Abraham feels no compassion for the misery of the rich man, because he recognises in his punishment the justice of God. For the sight of the punishment of the wicked does not lessen the happiness of the just, because since they can feel no compassion for the sufferings which they see, their joy will not on this account be diminished. Gloss. And S. Gregory (hom. 40) says, The souls of the just, although in the goodness of their nature they feel compassion, yet after they have been united to the righteousness of their Author, are constrained by such great uprightness as not to be moved with compassion towards the reprobate.

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