Thus says the Lord:
Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals
and make mere flesh their strength,
whose hearts turn away from the Lord.
They shall be like a shrub in the desert,
and shall not see when relief comes.
They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness,
in an uninhabited salt land.
Blessed are those who trust in the Lord,
whose trust is the Lord.
They shall be like a tree planted by water,
sending out its roots by the stream.
It shall not fear when heat comes,
and its leaves shall stay green;
in the year of drought it is not anxious,
and it does not cease to bear fruit.
The heart is devious above all else;
it is perverse—
who can understand it?
I the Lord test the mind
and search the heart,
to give to all according to their ways,
according to the fruit of their doings.
Happy are those
who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or take the path that sinners tread,
or sit in the seat of scoffers;
but their delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law they meditate day and night.
They are like trees
planted by streams of water,
which yield their fruit in its season,
and their leaves do not wither.
In all that they do, they prosper.
The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.
“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
On the surface, today’s Gospel sounds like one of Aesop’s fables. The rich man had good things in life, so he was punished in the afterlife. But the poor man received bad things in life and so was comforted. It would almost seem that the moral is that it is good to be poor and bad to be rich. But there is more to the rich man. There is more than surface level personality in a man who is going to contradict and argue with Father Abraham from the fires of hell. The rich man, no matter where he is, no matter what he has, is never content. Even in the midst of his wealth and having all his needs met, he still does not know when he has enough, much less too much, so he does not even share the scraps of his table with Lazarus. When he dies and goes to hell and sees the comfort of Lazarus, he cannot accept that this is what he deserves. He must call out and argue, protest that Lazarus is not giving anything to him. Then, when he is graced with an answer from Abraham himself, he still does not accept his answer. When Abraham tells the rich man that his brothers have Moses and the prophets, what is the rich man’s response? It is not enough.
We all face an amount of discontent in this life. Even when all our immediate needs are met, we cannot find complete fulfillment while we are separated from God in the physical world. But God will always be enough. His word will always be enough. Our struggles and malcontent are only the result of our sinfulness and the sinfulness of the world. Our anxieties and concerns are the result of not trusting God in his goodness. If we lean on him, he will give us the gift of himself, and we will never do better than that. The rich man who does not trust God, who does not think that God’s word is enough, is the one who finds that nothing is enough. His riches are not enough. Special graces are not enough. The truth is not enough. The rich man is like a plant that is rooted near a stream but does not take in the water. Relying on ourselves or the comforts of this world is the surest way to insure that we will not have real comfort from God.
Prayer: O God, help me to rely only on you. Give me the grace to see the ways that I depend on my own strength. Help me to let those ways go. Thank you for your presence in my life. Thank you for the gift of your word. My only happiness is in you. May I only ever seek you. Amen.