We are often taught by the Lord Jesus Christ through His parables or stories. Through these stories He conveys truth and reality to us. Because the Lord Himself is truth, His stories become more than simple fairy tales, they become truth for us.
We are told by the Lord that after a poor man named Lazarus died, a rich man who had no name also died. In the afterlife they could see each other but they were separated. During this time there is a conversation between the rich man and Abraham our forefather. Words are exchanged and at the end the rich man says to Abraham ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’
The rich man who didn’t have a care in the world and didn’t even notice Lazarus begging for scraps of food with the dogs, is now placed into the role of the beggar as he begs Abraham to send Lazarus back from the dead. He wants him to warn his brothers about the punishment and the pain that is going to come to them if they don’t repent and change their ways. If they don’t love God and take care of their neighbors.
The response from Abraham is powerful. He says “They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them.” What does that mean when he says “Moses and the prophets”? Moses had been dead for thousands of years so what exactly is he speaking of? Abraham was talking about two parts of the Old Testament. “Moses” refers to the first 5 books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The “prophets” refers to the prophetic books of the Bible such as the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel.
So Abraham’s response is basically to say that there is no need to send back someone from the dead, they already have guidance in the form of these two parts of the Old Testament that were both inspired by God. But the rich man replied ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ Now that brings us to a question “what would cause one of us to repent?” Let’s put it another way “what would cause an unbeliever to repent and change his way of life?” Would a visit from someone who was previously dead be enough to change a man’s heart? Probably not.
People who have trouble believing in the existence of God will frequently say “I would believe if only God would show Himself to me.” That seems logical but it is really a very convenient excuse. If you are an unbeliever there are very few ways for God to reach you unless you want to be reached. If a man came back from the grave and told the unbeliever that Hades was a terrible place of torment reserved for those who didn’t repent, the unbeliever might laugh. He might also question whether or not you had really been dead. He would then question whether or not you were perhaps delusional or just plain loco. He might even grant that you really truly believe the things that you saw but that probably they were only subconscious thoughts that weren’t based in reality.
The truth is that there are very few scenarios that will change a man’s heart unless he actually wants to be changed. The same is true for each of us. We sometimes spend our lives looking for miracles and visitations from angels and saints and from the Lord Jesus Himself. But that is not the way that God typically works in our lives.
The rich man said to Abraham “‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ And Abraham responds with these prophetic words
“‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”
According to Abraham there is simply no excuse for living a selfish and godless life especially if you were a Jew and certainly for us as Christians. Ignorance was no excuse when we were in school and we were expected to pass tests to graduate. Ignorance can’t save us from God either because the tools are all there for us. We can have a godly life now. We can repent now.
We are so blessed that God is not a secret for a privileged few. The Bible isn’t a document that is meant for scholars and priests, it is meant for all of us. Jesus Christ wasn’t the messiah for one group of people, but He died so that all men might be saved. His words have been written down so that all men might repent and learn the ways of life. There is no reason whatsoever to be lost in your spiritual life or any other part of life for that matter. There is no reason to despair.
The rich man was lost because he chose to ignore the Scriptures that had been given to him as a gift. God has given me even more tools than the rich man. I have more opportunities and ways to really know God. And if you and I embrace that fact right here and right now, that becomes wonderful news. However if we don’t embrace the fact that God is trying to communicate with us through tools such as the Scriptures and the life of the Church then the truth is that our lives won’t change even if we meet someone who is raised from the dead, even if we meet the Son of God who rose from the dead.
Thank God that He has chosen to speak to us, may we have the courage to choose to listen to His instructions for our lives.
AND GLORY BE TO GOD FOREVER. AMEN!
From the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke 16:19-31
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