Death, Judgement, Heaven & Hell
Guest Homily for Sunday,Sept. 26, 2010:
By: Fr. James Gilhooley
The rich man of today’s story was "a winner in this life," says James Tahaney, "and a loser in the next."
Dogs and cats in the United States eat more nutritious food than do the homeless in refugee camps in the third world. That chilling information is reported by The New York Times.
What a masterful storyteller and wordsmith the Master is. It boggles the mind to reflect how much He was able to squeeze into twelve verses. He is a teacher par excellence.
For openers, the Christ tells us that there is clearly survival after death.
Incidentally, we are fortunate enough to have forty parables. And this is the only one where a principal is named. The poor fellow is the famous Lazarus. His poverty ironically enough has won him more than a measure of immortality. The rich man is without a name. Perhaps Jesus intended that you and I should offer our names to the wealthy individual of the tale. After all, we live in a nation which controls a good portion of the world’s resources.
Secondly, this parable informs us that some of us will live in bliss after our deaths. We shall sit in God’s lap eating fresh strawberries out of season. We shall live in a comfort which is even beyond the state of the art.
Unhappily some of us shall go to that other place. You might call it the pits. There we will find neither room service nor terry cloth bathrobes. Rather, we shall sit clutching our heads and weeping for our miserable selves.
Polls show that many of our company do not buy hell. Unhappily there is one serious problem with that conviction. The Son of God did. He referred to God’s punishment and the existence of hell about ninety times in the Gospels. It is important to reflect that God does not send us to hell. It is we who dispatch our unhappy selves.
Thirdly whether we shall ride first class on the posh Orient Express or as a bum on a freight train depends on our conduct in the here and now.
The rich fellow wound up sweating excessively in hell not because he was bad or mean. Remember he let Lazarus sit at the front door of his mansion. He permitted him to check out his garbage cans for his food. You and I might well have called the cops and had them haul Lazarus away.
Rather, the wealthy man did nothing to help Lazarus. He simply stepped over him and ignored him. He allowed the poor fellow to blend in with the decor. So, we do not have to be genetic scientists to make some elementary deductions. After our respective deaths, it will not be sufficient to say, "O God, behold a person who has done nothing wrong." God will impatiently brush that statement aside. We will hear Him ask, "Spare me that tired line. Tell me of the good you have done."
Fourthly after death our life will forever flash before us. The millionaire was able to review his life with much pain and remorse. He constantly told himself, "Yes, of course, I should have helped that fellow. I could have given him at least a small portion of my wealth." The line he will mumble over and over again is that of Robby Burns, "The saddest words of tongue and pen are these: it might have been."
Fifthly the place we ship out to after death is the last stop. There will be no Claude Rains of Casablanca fame to arrange an exit visa even to a Foreign Legion fort. We learn this from God’s refusal to send Lazarus down into the pits with a six pack of cold beer. Any bottle we get down there will have a hole in the bottom as well as the top.
Sixthly (is there such a word?) God does not intend to take extraordinary means to acquaint us with the rules of the contest. Obviously He feels that we will find all the information we need in the Gospels. We learn this from God’s refusal to allow the rich man to fax a message to his brothers to shape up and fly right.
One does not hear today about the six truths contained in this centuries old tale. Yet, though we may be too inhibited to speak of the last four things – death, judgment, heaven, hell, – Jesus the Christ is not.