Pope Benedict and the rich man and Lazarus

Today’s Gospel, from Luke 16: 19-31, is the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. Some translations call the rich man “Dives,” but that is only the Latin word for “rich.”

Pope Benedict XVI’s legacy will include his concern for the poor and his critique of the Western economic system. But it is rooted in his concern for the poor and their dignity.

In his 2012 Lenten message he wrote these words about today’s parable:

In [the parable] of Dives and Lazarus, the rich man is heedless of the poverty of Lazarus, who is starving to death at his very door (cf. Lk 16:19). Both parables [the Good Samaritan and the Rich Man and Lazarus] show examples of the opposite of “being concerned”, of looking upon others with love and compassion. What hinders this humane and loving gaze towards our brothers and sisters? Often it is the possession of material riches and a sense of sufficiency, but it can also be the tendency to put our own interests and problems above all else. We should never be incapable of “showing mercy” towards those who suffer. Our hearts should never be so wrapped up in our affairs and problems that they fail to hear the cry of the poor. Humbleness of heart and the personal experience of suffering can awaken within us a sense of compassion and empathy. “The upright understands the cause of the weak, the wicked has not the wit to understand it” (Prov 29:7). We can then understand the beatitude of “those who mourn” (Mt 5:5), those who in effect are capable of looking beyond themselves and feeling compassion for the suffering of others. Reaching out to others and opening our hearts to their needs can become an opportunity for salvation and blessedness.

May we learn to see the poor as our sisters and brothers, to not hold on to our possessions and power, but to share in “the joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the people of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted…” (Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes, 1)

That perhaps would be the best way we could remember and honor Pope Benedict XVI.


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