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[orthodox-synod] The Rich Man and Lazarus - This Sunday's Gospel

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  • Priest Seraphim Holland
    22nd Sunday after Pentecost The Rich Man and Lazarus In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen. Today is the twenty second Sunday
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 29 4:31 PM
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      22nd Sunday after Pentecost
      The Rich Man and Lazarus

      In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
      Today is the twenty second Sunday after Pentecost1, and also is
      the day we celebrate the memory of St. Hilarion the Great. We
      wish many years to our beloved Archbishop Hilarion, who is down
      under now.

      This day is appointed the reading of the parable of the Rich man,
      and Lazarus.2 This parable is only given in St. Luke. We should
      understand that sometimes the Evangelists spoke about the same
      things, sometimes, they didn't. Part of the reason why this was
      done was because they were individual human beings, and they
      gave their own imprint to the gospel they wrote. Also, we can see
      better see the marvelous agreement of the gospels, because we
      can see how they were written in different styles, and with a
      different temperament, but when they speak of the same stories,
      they agree. They only have a little bit different perspective. But
      after all, two people can look at the same event , and both can
      have a true perspective. They just see different things in the event.
      This should make us want to read more, knowing that every gospel
      is different. Each story rendered is different. Sometimes all four
      gospels may give the same story, other times only three, or two, or
      one. This should make us want to read more, and I admonish you --
      READ. Read the Gospels. Read what is necessary for your
      salvation, all the Holy scriptures: the Gospels, the Epistles, the Old
      Testament and the Psalter. Read all these things for your
      salvation. You should so this every day. At least read the daily

      This parable, like all parables, has a literal meaning, and an
      allegorical meaning. Out Lord spoke in parables in order to convey
      a deeper meaning to those who wish to look into it, to those who
      are willing to struggle and try to learn. Those who just see the
      surface meaning lose out on the benefit that our Lord has intended
      for them.

      This parable is particularly rich in meanings, MANY meanings. It
      speaks of the Jews and the Gentiles, Lazarus being the Gentiles,
      and the Rich man being the Jews. He makes several comparisons,
      and basically says that the Gentiles are at the threshold of
      salvation - they were laying at the gate of the rich man. We also
      learn about the righteous and the unrighteous, how we are to act
      and how we are not to act. We seethe endurance of Lazarus and
      the greediness and lack of compassion of the rich man. We learn
      something about how you are to act if you are rich, and something
      about how you are to act if you are poor. Also, we learn something
      about what it will be like in the next life, especially for the damned.
      When I read what the rich man says, I am terrified. We see how it
      will be in the next life, both for the rich and the poor, that is, those
      who are rich in God, otherwise known as poor in spirit. We just
      read about that didn't we?3 We also learn something about
      rewards and punishments in this parable.

      Oh, yes, indeed, we will be rewarded or punished, depending on
      how we live our life. This is true! It is only recently, in the past few
      hundred years, that this heresy has come about that tries to
      remove responsibility from a man. Oh yes, we have plenty of
      responsibility. Our Lord tells us on every page of the Gospels how
      we are to act, how we are to live, and if we do not try to live in
      that way, yes, we will be judged. We can see something of this
      judgment in this parable. Lastly, at the end of this parable, we hear
      about the word of God and it must be listened to. If we don't listen
      to that, we cannot be expected to be convinced by any other
      means, even if a man would rise from the dead.

      The Parable begins "There was a certain rich man"4. A certain rich
      man - he doesn't even have a name. But wouldn't that be the way
      it would be? The scripture says about such a man, who is rich only
      in things in the temporal world, but poor in virtue, "Let his posterity
      be cut off; and in the generation following let their name be blotted
      out."5 And the Lord says also, "a froward heart shall depart from
      me: I will not know a wicked person."6 And then our Lord says,
      when He is speaking of the Judgment, "I tell you, I know you not
      whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. There
      shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see
      Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the
      kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out."7. Isn't that what
      happened to the rich man? He saw Abraham and he knew he was
      thrust out, and he was a man with out a name anymore. He was a
      man that God knew not. "His remembrance shall perish from the
      earth, and he shall have no name in the street."8, so says the
      Prophet Job. God help us, that we would not be like that, that we
      would have a name when eternity dawns. This man had no name

      And he was "was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared
      sumptuously every day."9 There are two meanings here. The
      Jews were clothed with the law, and God's grace toward them,
      and it is not sin to be clothed with purple and fine linen, and to fare
      sumptuously on the teaching of God, but it is a sin to be luxurious,
      or to not appreciate what God has given us. And that is the rich
      man. He had plenty enough to spare, and as we see later on in
      the parable he KNEW Lazarus. After all, when he was in hell, he
      certainly could call him by name, but he never bothered while he
      was on the earth to even cast a glance at him.

      "And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus10", it says. Ah,
      this man HAS a name. God knows him. God knows him WELL.
      Lazarus also represents the Gentiles, and they indeed were
      beggars at the time, because they were as yet outside of the
      kingdom. The kingdom had not been revealed to them yet, and they
      were beggars. "Their remembrance is unto generation and
      generation", that is the man who follows Christ, and he will have a
      name. That's why Lazarus was named, and the rich man, the rich
      man who people would fawn over in this life, was nameless,
      faceless, without an identity anymore in the next life.

      And it says that Lazarus "was laid at his gate, full of sores."11
      Again there are two meanings. This gate -- the Gentiles are laying
      by the gate, about to enter into the kingdom of heaven, right at the
      threshold of salvation. Harlots and tax collectors are entering into
      the Kingdom12, and the Pharisees and the Sadduces didn't know
      it, because they were too arrogant to see. They thought that their
      purple and fine linen would last into the next age, and indeed, it
      would not.

      And we also have another meaning to think about here. Who is laid
      at our gate? Is there a beggar at our gate, whether he be a beggar
      for clothing, a beggar for money, or a beggar for salvation, a
      beggar for comfort, a beggar for consolation? Who is laid at our
      gate? We had better know. The rich man was without excuse,
      concerning this man Lazarus, because he knew him. He saw him
      at his gate every day, and he ignored him.

      Also, these sores, what are they? They are sins. Lazarus was
      blessed, but he certainly was a sinner like you and I. The rich man
      was wretched, and he also was a sinner, but Lazarus' sins were on
      the outside of his skin. His sores were there, so the dogs came
      and licked them, and comforted him. The rich man's sins were
      internal. They were not out to be purged, to be cauterized, and so
      he died in his sins. Confess your sins, while you can, so that you
      need not confess them when there is no forgiveness.

      And so, when it says that "the dogs came and licked his sores."13,
      what are we to understand by this? Do you see how ALONE the
      man was? He had no comfort. The DOGS came to lick his sores.
      No one else came, ONLY the dogs. He had to endure much, didn't
      he? Do you see the greatness of his soul? The scripture does not
      come right out and say how great a man he was, but can you see,
      can you infer? Look at what he endured - coldness, nakedness,
      hunger, paralysis, loneliness, dejection, and also to see the warmth
      of the house of the rich man, and to see all the foodstuffs being
      brought in, and not to have anything to eat! And not to be warm.
      He endured much indeed, and the scriptures show that he did not
      complain one whit.

      "The beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's
      bosom.". This beggar, he died, and to the world, it was a non
      event. Someone had to grab him, because after all, he would start
      to smell, and throw him somewhere, into some potter's field. No
      one came to pray for him. No one cared. No one knew him. The
      rich man might have noticed after two or three weeks, "Oh the
      beggar is not there anymore. I don't have to step over him
      anymore. That's good". His death was of no consequence. It did
      not cause a ripple in the life of that time.

      But he did NOT die alone, and his death was a matter of great
      rejoicing in the heavens, because the angels escorted him into
      Abraham's bosom. What does it say about those that die who are
      righteous, and the appearances, both in this world , and the REAL
      appearances in the next? Solomon says, "But the souls of the
      righteous are in the hand of God, and there shall no torment touch
      them. In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die: and their
      departure is taken for misery, And their going from us to be utter
      destruction: but they are in peace. For though they be punished in
      the sight of men, yet is their hope full of immortality. And having
      been a little chastised" ... Lazarus' wounds were a little bit of
      chastisement mind you. Don't look at the appearances, look at the
      truth! And "they shall be greatly rewarded: for God proved them,
      and found them worthy for himself. As gold in the furnace hath he
      tried them, and received them as a burnt offering. And in the time of
      their visitation they shall shine, and run to and fro like sparks
      among the stubble."14 So it is with the righteous when they die.
      The world sees a false picture, but we know the truth.

      What is Abraham's bosom? Of course, it is salvation. And our
      Lord made that comment because part of the reason he said this
      parable was in order to show the Jews their foolishness. And they
      got the message. This is one of the reasons they hated him so
      much, because they saw what He was saying in this parable - that
      they were unbelievers, and of course, the bosom of Abraham
      would be understood by the Jews to be salvation. After all, He said
      to them in another place, "I say unto you, That many shall come
      from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and
      Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the
      kingdom"15, the Jews, those who did not understand, those who
      did not WANT TO LIVE according to what they had learned, "shall
      be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and
      gnashing of teeth".16 The East and West represents the Jews and
      the Gentiles, the Greek, and everyone else. Salvation was being
      made manifest for everyone, and it was before the eyes of these
      proud Jews, and they DIDN'T SEE IT.

      Then it mentions the rich man in this parable. "The rich man also
      died, and was buried."17. Period. He died alone, brothers and
      sisters. Oh, I am sure there was a great fanfare. I am sure there
      was a GREAT funeral for him, and there were orations about him,
      and he was buried with great pomp and circumstance. And there
      were probably paid mourners who were weeping, and playing their
      horns, as the Jews were wont to do to show how much they loved
      him. And yet, so many of those people that were saying those
      things were rejoicing, because after all, he probably was hated by
      his servants. There were probably people who owed him money
      and thought, "Now this is wonderful. Now that he has died, I don't
      owe him anymore. I am sure glad he died before me". And there
      was probably someone who said "Ah ha! I can take what he had,
      and add it to my larder, because he is gone now, and I can
      appropriate his goods."

      David says, "Their graves shall be their houses, unto eternity".
      This is not the mansion18 that our Lord speaks of. That's the
      house that I want to live in. "Their graves shall be their houses,
      unto eternity". The Lord will say to him, "Your feasting is finished,
      your name is blotted out of the book of life. And I DON'T know
      you." And that is what happened to the rich man.

      "And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth
      Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom."19 Oh yes, there are
      actual torments, and these torments are, shall we say, the "would-
      ofs" the "could-ofs" and the "should-ofs". We will know what we
      should have done when we die. May it be that we will rejoice,
      because God will say, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant".
      He is far off. He sees Abraham AFAR off, in brightness. He is in
      murk, and he sees the light AFAR off. He is FAR removed. And He
      sees Lazarus. Notice that Lazarus does not see him. Lazarus was
      in bliss. He did not see him. Those in the light have trouble seeing
      into the darkness, don't they? But the people in the dark can see
      into the light. Lazarus was unencumbered by the knowledge of the
      Rich man's situation.

      Don't let the Devil trick you now. I think one of the tricks that he
      has, especially for people that are converts, living in an unorthodox
      country, and where we have family, perhaps children, our spouse,
      brothers, sisters, parents that are not of the Orthodox faith or are
      even far away from anything even remotely resembling Christianity
      is this. We worry and we fret about them, and wonder, what will it
      be like when we die. I have had this temptation, wondering how
      can I be happy if I know that my father or mother is not in heaven.
      Well, in heaven, you will have understanding, because all things
      will be revealed. You will be at peace. You will understand then.
      You don't understand now, but you will understand then. Now we
      cannot fully understand. So don't let the Devil trick you. Save your
      soul, because if you don't save your soul, how can you help
      anyone to save theirs? And pray also for your mother and your
      father, your sister and your brother.

      And the rich man, or we know him as the poorest wretch don't we?
      says, "send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water,
      and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame."20 He who
      denied even a crumb to Lazarus is denied even a drop of water for
      his tongue. What a state he is in now! Instead of music, he hears
      groaning. Instead of the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, he is
      in darkness. Instead of drinking and carousing, and eating to his
      fill, he has thirst, and hunger, burning thirst. Instead of gaiety he
      has despair. This is the state of the man!

      The Words of the Law were in his mouth. He was a Jew! I am sure
      that he went to synagogue, and that he said some prayers, and
      gave some alms for appearances sake, but the things he said, that
      he didn't believe, they burn him now! That's what is burning his
      tongue, you know. That is why his tongue is so hot, and parched,
      because he didn't do what he said. He said he believed
      something, but he didn't really, because he did not act like it.

      The Lord says some things about these people, who are
      knowledgeable, but do not do His commandments, "Wherefore the
      Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their
      mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their
      heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept
      of men: Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work
      among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the
      wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of
      their prudent men shall be hid21. These wise men, so called, are
      those who trust in their riches, and their gaiety, and their feasting,
      and have not compassion, and their wisdom, and their prudence is
      hid in HADES, and their name is FORGOTTEN. The Lord says to
      us on every page of the scripture, "Why call ye me, Lord, Lord,
      and do not the things which I say?22 And the rich man is exactly
      like this kind of person: "He that heareth, and doeth not, is like a
      man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth;
      against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it
      fell; and the ruin of that house was great."23 And that house was

      And Abraham said to him, "Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime
      receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but
      now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.24 Abraham said to
      him, SON! Ah, this is a person who was in the church, this is one
      of those tares that grew up. Oh yes, there will out and out pagans
      in hell, and idol worshippers, and yet, there will also be those who
      call themselves Christians, those who call themselves good Jews.
      Abraham recognized, "Yes, you are one of us, and I call you Son,
      but that doesn't do you any good now, because the place of
      torment is reserved for those who do not do the commandments,
      whether they are sons, or aliens" .

      And He says that "that thou in thy lifetime receivedst THY good
      things". In English, we really cannot see this distinction, but in the
      Slavonic, and Greek, this word "receivest" has a connotation of
      "receive because of what you have done". What does it say in the
      other scriptures today, in the usual reading for venerable fathers,
      men who fasted and prayed, and became great Saints? St. Paul
      says "He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he
      which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully."25 He reaped
      what he sowed, because he sowed nothing. So he had nothing.
      He was naked in the next life, and without comfort.

      And likewise, Lazarus received evil things in this world, evil in
      appearances! But our Lord has something to say about that in the
      other Gospel as well, because He says, "Blessed be ye poor: for
      yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are ye that hunger now: for
      ye shall be filled", not NOW, but in the kingdom you will be filled! Be
      patient!. "Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh."26, and
      run to and fro, like sparks among the stubble.

      So Lazarus had evil things and the rich man had those things that
      he thought were good things. And he made a trade, like Esau
      made.27 He traded a pot of lentils for is birthright, is what he did.
      He made the choice. He decided what he wanted, and we indeed
      can make that choice also, brothers and sisters. We can decide,
      when we want our good things? Do we want them now, or do we
      want them in the kingdom? You can have good things now,
      according to your abilities, you can have everything you want. But
      you will have nothing in the Kingdom if you only pursue temporal
      happiness now. Lazarus punishment was only for a moment, only
      for a short time. He suffered grievously for only a short period, and
      then he had eternal life.

      And Abraham then says to the rich man, to explain to him why he
      has no help, no comfort, no chance: "between us and you there is
      a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you
      cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from
      thence."28 Oh yes, hell is permanent and real! And I tell you, the
      gulf was made by the rich man. He dug his own pit, and jumped into
      it, and he has no recourse after jumping into that pit. And see what
      he understood? The rich man knew what he had done! The rich
      man repented, he wanted to make amends. He was not a man with
      absolutely no good feelings whatsoever.

      He said, "I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him
      to my father's house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify
      unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.29 His
      memory is all preserved! He remembers his brothers. He
      remembers how they act. He knows Lazarus. He knows Abraham,
      and yet he had never met the man! He never met him at all,
      because he never cared about the things he said, did he? The
      senses in the next life are finer and stronger. We see and we
      understand more, we calculate more quickly in the next life, when
      we are unencumbered by the flesh. Indeed, even those in Hell have
      finer senses, so that they can more exquisitely feel their pain. Do
      you see how terrifying this is? All their passions are still preserved,
      but there is no fulfillment for their passions. His thirst for liquor will
      never be fulfilled, his thirst for women, for song, all of it will go
      unfulfilled and will GNAW at him, and hurt him, and cut him, for
      eternity! "Their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched."30, it
      says in the scripture. And that is the worm, brothers and sisters!
      Our passions are the worm! They will eat at us, unless we
      exorcise them now, so that we will be unencumbered by them. And
      in the next life, every knee shall bend31, and all things shall be
      made known. Those in Hades, they will know, they will see Father
      Abraham, and this will make their pain even more real and more

      And Abraham says to him, "They have Moses and the prophets; let
      them hear them" (the word of God). "And he said, Nay, father
      Abraham...". He knew his brothers because he was one of them.
      "... but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And
      he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither
      will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.".32 And the
      Jews certainly heard this, and it angered them, and just increased
      their foment, and their desire to put him to death.

      Why is it some men will not be "persuaded", whether by the Word
      of God, or even obvious miracles? Certainly most people here in
      America would say they "believe" in God, and even call
      themselves Christians, and yet so many are not really "persuaded"
      to live as Christians. Why is this so? It is because they do not
      understand that the Christian life is a moral life, with moral change
      and amendment a necessity. The rich man, like so many in this life,
      said he believed, but did not change. He was not compassionate.
      His wallowing in luxury dulled his senses, and he perished in
      worldly splendor. Lazarus, the blessed one, endured with patience
      and was saved. May God help us to endure all things, and to
      change ourselves to be like Him, to love, to be patient, eventually
      to see Him in paradise.


      This, and other Orthodox materials are available in booklet and electronic form from:

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      1 This homily was transcribed from one given On October Third, 1996 according to the church calendar, being the Twenty Second Sunday after Pentecost and the day appointed for the commemoration of St. Hilarion the Great. There are some stylistic changes and minor corrections made and several
      footnotes have been added, but otherwise, it is essentially in a colloquial, "spoken" style. It is hoped that something in these words will help and edify the reader, but a sermon read from a page cannot enlighten a soul as much as attendance and reverent worship at the Vigil service, which
      prepares the soul for the Holy Liturgy, and the hearing of the scriptures and the preaching of them in the context of the Holy Divine Liturgy. In such circumstances the soul is enlightened much more than when words are read on a page.
      2 Cf. Luke 16:19-31
      3 Cf. Luke 6:17-23, the Gospel reading for St. Hilarion the Great.
      4 Luke 16:19
      5 Psalm 109:13
      6 Psalm 101:4
      7 Luke 13:27-28
      8 Job 18:17
      9 Luke 16:19
      10 Luke 16:20
      11 Ibid.
      12 Cf. Matthew 21:31
      13 Ibid.
      14 Wisdom 3:1 - 7
      15 Matthew 8:11-12
      16 Matthew 8:11-12
      17 Luke 16:22
      18 Cf. John 14:2
      19 Luke 16:23
      20 Luke 16:24
      21 Isaiah 29:13-14
      22 Luke 6:46
      23 Luke 6:49
      24 Luke 16:25
      25 2 Corinthians 9:6. The appointed epistle reading for venerable Fathers is 2 Cor. 9:6-11
      26 Luke 6:20-21. The appointed Gospel reading for venerable Fathers is Luke 6:17-23.
      27 Cf. Genesis 25:29-34
      28 Luke 16:26
      29 Luke 16:27-28
      30 Isaiah 66:2, quoted in Mark 9:44,46,48
      31 Cf. Philippians 2:10
      32 Luke 16:31

      Luke 16:19-31 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in
      purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: {20} And
      there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his
      gate, full of sores, {21} And desiring to be fed with the crumbs
      which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and
      licked his sores. {22} And it came to pass, that the beggar died,
      and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man
      also died, and was buried; {23} And in hell he lift up his eyes, being
      in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
      {24} And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me,
      and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and
      cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. {25} But Abraham
      said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good
      things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted,
      and thou art tormented. {26} And beside all this, between us and
      you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from
      hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come
      from thence. {27} Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that
      thou wouldest send him to my father's house: {28} For I have five
      brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into
      this place of torment. {29} Abraham saith unto him, They have
      Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. {30} And he said,
      Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they
      will repent. {31} And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and
      the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from
      the dead

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