Let me share a story of two good men.
The first good man was a man of strong Christian faith. He had studied and worked hard to overcome his limitations, was married with children and had a successful career. He had many dreams and hopes for himself, his family and his work. He gave time to his children and prayed that they would be healthy and happy throughout long lives as good citizens. He knew that if he kept working hard and loving his family he would be the best that he could be.
The second good man was also a man of strong Christian faith. He too had studied and worked hard, overcoming personal obstacles and was married with a good job. He had many dreams and hopes for himself, his family and his career. He too enjoyed time with his children and, like the first man, prayed that his children would live long happy healthy lives contributing well to society. He also knew that it was important that he worked hard and loved his family knowing that in this way he would be the best that he could be.
The difference between these two men at this point? There is no evident difference.
But here’s a deciding question. Where will each man be living in 100 years? We know that neither will be living on earth, and we know too that God gives us freedom which we can use in any moment turning towards or away from God. God does not force us into heaven whether we like it or not at the end of our earthly lives. God loves us so much he gives us freedom, even to make a decision to turn away eternally.
Today’s gospel presents us with two men. Dives is a rich man and Lazarus is poor. Their lives on earth were very different: one wore fine clothing and feasted magnificently every day, and the other was covered with sores and longed for scraps from the rich man’s table.
But we would be misunderstanding this story if we reduced it to a story about material wealth.
Jesus is forcing his hearers to consider where we place our hope and our trust. This is why the three scriptures for today’s Liturgy of the Word are grouped together. The first reading: A curse on the one who puts their trust in people relying on things of the flesh, whose heart turns from the Lord. The psalm: Happy are they who hope in the Lord…whose delight is the law of the Lord and who ponders God’s law day and night.
There are many people who might be materially poor yet whose lives are driven by the unhealthy desire to acquire possessions, and many others who do have material possessions yet live without attachment and with their hope in the Lord.
And without going down the fire and brimstone preaching path as many have in years past when explaining this gospel, we are wise to make the life-death decision today about in what or in whom we place our hope.
- Take a moment to ask yourself: Where is my heart focussed? What is my heart’s desire?
- I have been very moved this week to see and hear the public witness of faith of Aotearoa New Zealand Muslims as they speak with conviction about eternal life, and publicly continue to proclaim their faith in God by their words, deeds and even dress. I have been asking myself: am I as ready to be public about my faith in Jesus Christ?