Homily of His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America
Archieratical Divine Liturgy
5th Sunday of Luke
Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church, Brooklyn, NY
November 3, 2019
My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ,
In today’s Gospel reading from the 16th chapter of Luke—the parable of the rich man and Lazarus—we heard quite an imaginative story, carefully told…beautiful, yet sad. This story illustrates a vast disparity between two men and between two different sets of lifestyles.
The rich man in today’s story lives like a king: wearing the most expensive clothing and spending his time in excessive luxury. Lazarus, on the other hand, is poor. Covered in sores, Lazarus is like a sea-tossed piece of wreckage, debris that has washed up on the rich man’s doorstep. And to the rich man, Lazarus was perhaps more of such an object than human. It is interesting to note here that the rich man is not given a name in Christ’s parable, but we know the poor man’s name to be Lazarus. In fact, Lazarus is the only hero in any of Christ’s parables to be given a name. This is not the same Lazarus that Christ raised from the dead, rather a merely fictional character.
These two men, different as they are, meet the same fate that each of us will also face one day: death. They die at the same moment, their lives and their shared story forever interwoven. But as the paths of these two men crossed in life, so too in death their destinies once again intersect and yet again they diverge in different directions. Lazarus is carried away by angels into the warm and welcoming bosom of Abraham, while the rich man is buried in the cold ground. Here we ask the question: What did these two men do so differently in life to deserve their respective endings? Only God knows each person’s heart. But we must be clear about something: wealth is not an inherent evil. The rich man did not find himself in anguish in the flames merely because of his wealth. The manner in which he used his wealth, however, contributed to his miserable ending.
The rich man may have been considered by many standards to be a “good person.” He may have given small amounts of money to some worthy causes, he may have gone to his place of worship occasionally (even regularly), but these things could have been done merely to appease his conscience and not from his heart and in the love of God. The truth is, he did not genuinely care for his neighbor. His indifference and his lack of guilt for his fellow man’s condition is really alarming. It is almost frightening because I think many of us can relate to the rich man, especially in today’s age when we are being desensitized to everything around us.
My beloved brothers and sisters, the time for action is now. We do not know what tomorrow holds. As the saying goes, “there is no time like the present.”
Through this story, we are subtly yet strongly given an invitation by Christ to do good to others and not to be like the rich man. We are encouraged to give from the blessings that God has bestowed on us to those who are less fortunate than we are. In this case, the amount of wealth we have is irrelevant.
St. Basil the Great, in one of his homilies,[i] wisely says: “When you give to the poor for the love of God, the same thing is both a gift and a loan. Gift, first, because there is no hope of receiving anything in return; loan, secondly, because the Lord will reward you abundantly through the poor and because for the small amount you give to them, you will receive huge sums in return. Thus, [as it says in the Book of Proverbs[ii]], ‘whoever gives alms to the poor lends to God…’”
Having heard these words, it is my prayer that we all be encouraged learn from this parable and be given the strength to put our Faith into action.
May God bless each of you on this day, and always. Amen.