While the world lives for the present, Christians live for the future. For they know that this life will end more than likely in death, just as it did for Lazarus and that rich man. But the life that is to come is eternal, and so a state of existence rather than a period of time. To put it simply, in eternity what is, is and always will be.
This rich man is and always will be in torment, as he observes Lazarus in glory but is unable to join him due to the great gulf that separates heaven from hell, as he burns in fire, perhaps even as a living torch on fire, but is never consumed, and as he deals with the guilt of knowing that he could have been as Lazarus is had he not foolishly rejected God's grace in this life.
For Lazarus is and always will be in Abraham's bosom, an image which portrays a state of peace, security and contentment. And so it is for all the blessed dead who now dwell in the presence of their God. For them there is no more death or mourning or crying or pain, but only fulness of joys and pleasures forevermore.
No wonder St. Paul declared, "To live is Christ, to die is gain"; and again, "I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far." Believe me. No one in heaven wishes that he were still living here on earth.
But people like this rich man don't go to heaven. Instead they spend eternity in hell, and not because they are rich either. Abraham was rich, King Solomon even richer, and it was God who made them so. The reason this man is in hell today is because he trusted in his riches. They were his god, to whom he looked and on whom he relied and for whom he lived.
How do we know this? By the way he treated Lazarus. When he saw this sick man lying at his gate, he showed no compassion whatsoever. He neither bandaged his wounds nor pour oil over them to prevent infection. Instead he let the dogs lick them. And rather than feed this hungry man to build up his strength, he sat back and watched him compete with the dogs for the crumbs that fell from his table; all of which brings to mind these words of St. John, "If someone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?"
Yet do not assume from this, as many in fact do, that had this rich man shown compassion to Lazarus, he would have merited his way into heaven. For the Blessed Apostle goes on to say, "He who loves God must also love his brother." Love for God is what motivates the Christian to show God's love to others.
And you have every reason to love God, because he first loved you. Indeed, "God is love," just as he is Three in One. And love needs an object, someone to love. So God created man, just so that he could love man.
However, tempted by the serpent, man rejected God's love and was deceived into thinking he could be his own god. Because of this he fell under the wrath of God and deserved to be condemned by God to spend eternity in hell.
But do not despair, for, "In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God sent his only begotten Son into the world that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for - that is, the One who satisfied the requirements of his holy law and so appeased his wrath over - our sins."
Dear Christian, because of Jesus today's Gospel is completely reversed. The rich man is not the one spending eternity in hell, but your God, who does not ignore the poor beggar, but instead shows great compassion to him, even though he also should spend eternity in hell. For you are that beggar. Conceived in the poverty of sin, you had nothing to offer God that would move him to act for you rather than against you. Instead all you could do was lie hungry, sick and dying outside the gate of heaven.
But in Christ Jesus the rich man, to whom all things in heaven and on earth belong, became poor, so that the poor man, who lives in the poverty of his sin, might become rich. For God, who is love and so rich in mercy, not only suffered your hell on the cross for you, but then healed you by pouring his Blood over your foul and festering sores in a Holy Baptism and by covering them with the bandages of his righteousness through the same. And so that you remain in good spiritual health, he feeds you, not crumbs, but a Feast of his Body and Blood for the forgiveness of your sins.
This is why you can live for the future rather than the present. It's because you believe together with St. Paul that "to die is gain." And as you eagerly await your entrance through death into a life of eternal bliss, you can live this life for Christ by making yours a church proclaims the love of Christ through the words of Moses and the Prophets as well as those of the Evangelists and Apostles.
Of course whether people take theses words to heart is another matter. Truth is many will not be convinced, even if one rises from the dead. And in fact Jesus did. But some will be brought to faith, and these will rejoice with you, giving thanks to God for you, in the blessed existence that is and always will be.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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