Paradigm Shift

The Rich Man...

Probably the most difficult Gospel to accept is the one of the Rich Man and the Beggar Lazarus. In it Jesus presents a radical reversal of fortunes for the two icons of humanity in eternal life. The Rich Man had all his needs met in this life and was always assured his own personal comfort. In the way Jesus presents him, one would have to ask what he did so wrong as to deserve condemnation and torment in eternal life.

The Beggar Lazarus is presented as one who suffered throughout his life and barely had his needs met each day. He never knew comfort and never had the resources to alleviate the sufferings of his fellow beggars. And yet, for sure, the Beggar Lazarus would most likely be the first to share what little he had with his fellow beggars in suffering. In no way does Jesus even hint of any selfishness in Lazarus.

And yet in eternity, the Beggar Lazarus is at Peace with Abraham and the Rich Man in torment. The key to this passage that may resolve the question comes from the first request from the Rich Man -- he asks to be delivered from the torment he is suffering. He wants to alleviate his own suffering first and only as an afterthought does he try to help others. The selfishness that results in self-gratification in this life is the root of the deadly sins. It is through such self-centered desires that one is blinded to the Truth and whose soul is put to death... a death that, left unrepentant, continues in eternity.

A significant dimension of Catholic Teaching and Tradition has been the place of suffering and the Cross. The faithful have always been asked by Christ to embrace the Cross and to mortify the selfish passions. Through such mortification, the heart becomes disposed to Grace and becomes capable of magnifying the Lord in all things. Yet all mortification must flow from a deeply spiritual and prayerful soul. As we see in the Cross of Christ, through suffering Love IS. And yet the devil has convinced so many modern individuals today that the Cross is folly and pleasure is all there is.

In the end, shouldn’t this particular Gospel passage make every modern Catholic shudder?