September 25, 2022
Man has always wondered what is beyond this life. Anything? Only Jesus can give us this vision of the eternal, beyond the limits of what we can see on earth.
- The rich man seems successful. Lazarus seems a wretched failure.
- But Jesus gives us a glimpse beyond this life.
- How extremely different eternal life is from this brief time on earth.
- This is a warning for some, a great hope and consolation for others.
- He tells His friends: “I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”
This is a computer-generated transcription that has been included to make the homily searchable. It has not been verified by the author.
There’s an earthquake in this gospel, but which is said so simply that we might not even notice it. So, see if you can discover where the earthquake is. It begins, “there was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would have gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.” And scholars debate whether Jesus is telling a parable, or recounting something that actually happened, because the unusual thing here is that the poor man has a name, Lazarus. Usually in parables, there is no name. But based on this part, who would we say was the successful one? Who would have the life that people envy and whose life seemed to be a complete failure, a miserable life? And since back then, and still today, people often see that as a sign of moral failure, or moral goodness, that the person, Lazarus will not only have all his poverty, but also be seen by some people as just that it’s his own fault. And then the Gospel goes on. “The poor man died.” The rich man also died and was buried. And it didn’t say if Lazarus was buried. But the rich man, was buried and probably had a nice funeral that he could afford. And we just had that extreme example of a solemn funeral with the Queen of England’s, funeral. Up till now all of that could have been written by a journalist. And that’s the end of what we could see. But the question for humanity has always been, is that the end? Or is there something else afterwards? What is beyond that point, where we can no longer see? And there’s been a lot of different ideas, some have thought that there’s nothing better, that’s the complete end, there is no afterlife. A lot have thought that there’s an afterlife, but it’s kind of a shadowy existence in the underworld, for everyone. Other religions believe in reincarnation, and a whole series of cycles of coming back in different forms, even in forms of animals. And how can we know? Humanity’s wondered how to know? So, sometimes there have been experiences of ghosts. And some people seek a psychic, a medium, or seance to try to have contact with those who have gone beyond. And we’ve also had on if they had it back then. But now, it’s probably more common today with our modern technology. But we’ve had a number of reports of people who said they had a near death experience, some very interesting accounts. But what we have here in the Gospel is unique. Because we don’t have just a report of a ghost, or a psychic, or a person more or less trustworthy, who says that they had a glimpse or an experience of the afterlife. And as Catholics, we even know, and I’m going to be sharing one in just a moment, but some of the saints were granted experiences of what comes afterwards. But what is completely unique in the Gospel is that we have the one person who knows. St. Paul in the second reading talked about, “He who dwells in unapproachable light, that no human can know.” But here we have the one who dwells in unapproachable light, who knows everything about that life and has come to tell us about it, has come as God who knows all, but as man who comes to communicate that to us. And so, that is what is completely unique in Jesus, as He is the one who can reveal to us in all fullness and all truth, what is beyond, or what our human experiences can reveal. And so that’s where the great earthquake happens in this Gospel. And Jesus says it so simply that we hardly notice it. But it is a great earthquake because it shakes and changes everything. Because He reveals to us what comes afterwards, which only He can do, and how different things appear afterwards. And how different the idea of who was successful and who had a good life is. So, there’s the first part of the gospel, which talks about what was just happening on earth. But the most of the Gospel is focused on what happens afterwards. And so, he’s reminding us that our life here has an end. And of course, that’s not a revelation, we all know that our life here has an end. But there’s so much in our world, which tries to make us forget that, to forget that this is just a very brief beginning. For good or for ill, our life here is very brief. And then right after this life, immediately after, comes the particular judgment, the judgment, which is individual and personal for each one of us. And so, we see that for the rich man, it says he was in Hades. The scholars say that this is the nether world or the realm of the dead, where the deceased souls of the wicked are waiting until the last judgement. So, it’s not yet hell. But it’s where they’re waiting, the wicked, before the Last Judgement. But St. Faustina had an experience of hell. And I’ll just read you a little passage of that, she said, “I, Sister Faustina, by the order of God, have visited the abysses of hell, so that I may tell souls about it, and testify to its existence. I have received a command from God to leave it in writing. The devils were full of hatred for me. But they had to obey me at the command of God. I noticed one thing, that most of the souls there are those who disbelieve that there is a hell.” Most of the souls in hell didn’t believe that there was a hell. And so that’s why it’s so important to help people realize the danger of hell, precisely so they don’t end up there. “When I came to, I could hardly recover from the fright. How terribly souls suffer there.” Just reading a little part here, but she goes into a lot more of describing the different sufferings of the souls there. “Consequently, I pray even more fervently for the conversion of sinners. I incessantly plead for God’s mercy upon them.” That’s what the whole revelation of God’s mercy is, to keep souls from going to hell. So, Jesus, in His Gospel, is speaking to the Pharisees, and He’s warning them. That’s an act of mercy for them. That the sin of the rich man was not being rich, that’s not a sin, but it was neglecting others, others who needed him. And so, this is a call to use the opportunities we have in this earth, well. And then it speaks of Lazarus. Lazarus, who was treated like garbage in this life, but God reveals that God respects him. God respects each human person, even those who are treated so miserably here on earth. And it says that Lazarus was taken by the angels, to the bosom of Abraham. So, the bosom of Abraham, scholars say that it’s a temporary realm, where the righteous souls of the Old Covenant waited patiently for Christ to open the gates of heaven. The gates of heaven are not yet open when Jesus is saying this because He hasn’t yet died in person. So, this is where the souls of the righteous are waiting, this bosom of Abraham. And I’ll share another passage from St. Faustina. And this time, she was given the experience of heaven. “I was in heaven, and I saw it’s inconceivable beauties, and the happiness that awaits us after death.” So, a very, very different experience the happiness after death, the Beatitude. “I saw how all creatures give ceaseless praise and glory to God. I saw how great is happiness in God, which spreads to all creatures,” God sharing His own divine Beatitude, “making them happy. And that all the glory and praise, which springs from this happiness returns to its source, that is God. They enter into the depths of God, contemplating the inner life of God.” So, the deepest root of our suffering is because we’re separated from God, on this earth, and so heaven is the union with God. And so, where His joy can overflow into us, this source of happiness is unchanging in its essence. But it is always new, always gushing forth for all creatures. That’s unchanging, its essence, because the essence is union with God. But she says it is always new. So, some people think we’re going to get bored in heaven. If God can make this world which has been so affected by sin, where there’s so much marvels, and so many interesting, extraordinary things in this world, what would Heaven be like? St. Faustina says, it’s always new. It’s never the same old thing. In eternity, how is that going to be? We don’t know because we’ve never experienced anything like that. It’s beyond our experiences, that’s going to be a big surprise. There’s going to be lots and lots and lots of surprises when it says it’s always new, always more surprises in heaven. And so, this is a message of hope, when we’re going through trials, to not give into despair. Our time on earth is brief. And as we get older, it gets briefer. And if this is all we had, that would be sad. But if this is our opportunity to approach heaven, that’s very, very good news, we’re getting closer and closer to the finish line. This is the brief time that’s given to us to work to help Jesus save souls, to carry some of His cross, take part of His cross, to help Him carry the cross like Simon of Cyrene, and to help save souls. And so that’s the great earthquake that is hidden in this Gospel, the earthquake which changes everything. So, the one whose life seemed to be a life that other people want, this rich man, how many people would want his life when it becomes for all eternity. And Lazarus, whose life seems so wretched, how extraordinary, and how desirous his life becomes forever and ever, and ever, and ever. So, Jesus is the great revelation, the great earthquake in human history, because He changes everything. And He reveals, and He also reveals what has changed, what we can’t yet see. But He can see, and we can know, because of His revelation. And so, as we celebrate this Mass, this Gospel is to sustain, if our life is a difficult life, it’s to sustain us and hope that we don’t give in to discouragement or to despair. It’s a call for us to use the opportunities, the gifts that God has given us, use them well, for others, what this rich man did not do. And all of us have the richness that in heaven, we will realize that each moment we had here on earth is actually a richness, a richness that we can use well, or we can waste. And so, all of us have this richness to being able to live, an offer for the Lord, and precisely the things which seem most worthless, and useless because they’re difficult, and on this earth can become actually the greatest riches when we offer them to the Lord. And it’s a call to trust in His mercy, not in our own holiness, but to trust in His infinite mercy. So again, this Gospel, if we’re struggling, if we’re suffering, if our life is not all that we would have wished it to be, which is I imagine a case for pretty much all of us, it’s a call to hope, to follow Jesus and fidelity and to hope to share His joy. So, I’m just going to end by reading another passage, a well-known passage from the Gospel from the night before the Lord died. “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” Do not let your hearts be troubled, “believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms. And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you with Me that where I am, you also may be.” What will that be like? If we’ve suffered with Jesus here on this earth, and can await that moment, which our body may be suffering, but then Jesus comes, we fall asleep here on earth, and Jesus comes and takes us to be in His Father’s house, with Him forever. Amen.
KEYWORDS / PHRASES:
1 Timothy 6:11-16