Sunday, September 30, 2007

Angelus: Use of wealth for unrestrained luxury

AP Photo/Andrew Medichini

~translated by Papa Ratzinger Forum

Dear brothers and sisters!

Today the Gospel of Luke presents the parable of the rich man and poor Lazarus (Lk 16,19-31). The rich man impersonates the iniquitous use of wealth by those who use it for unrestrained and selfish luxury, thinking only of self-satisfaction, without a thought for the beggar who is at their door.

The poor man, on the other hand, represents those whom only God thinks about. Unlike the rich man, he has a name, Lazarus, short for Eleazar, which means 'God helps him'. God does not forget those who are forgotten by everyone else. Those who do not count for anything in the eyes of man are precious in the eyes of the Lord.

The parable shows how earthly iniquity is overturned by divine justice. After he dies, Lazarus is welcomed 'in the bosom of Abraham', that is, into eternal beatitude, whereas the rich man ends up "in the torments of hell'. They have both gone on to a new state which is definitive and unappealable, about which one must provide for in life, because nothing can be done about it it afterwards.

This parable also lends itself to a social reading, about which Pope Paul VI's teaching 40 years ago in the encyclical Popolorum progressio is memorable. Speaking of the battle against world hunger, he wrote: "It is a question of building a world in which every man...can live a life that is fully human...where the poor Lazarus can sit at the same table as the rich man" (n. 47).

The Encyclical reminds us that the numerous situations of poverty are caused, on the one hand, by "the servitude which comes from other men" and on the other, from "nature that has not been sufficiently mastered' (ibid). Unfortunately, some peoples suffer from both these causes.

How can we not think, especially at this moment, of the countries of sub-Saharan Africa, recently hit by grave flooding? Nor can we forget so many other situations of human emergency in different regions of the planet, in which fighting for political and economic power further aggravates human misery as well as the already significant environmental problems.

Pope Paul VI's appeal, "The hungry peoples dramatically confront the peoples of opulence" (Popolorum progressio, 3), keeps all its urgency today. We cannot say we do not know the course to take: we have the Laws and the Prophets, and Jesus tells us in the Gospel. Whoever does not wish to hear will not change even if someone comes back from the dead to remind them.

May the Virgin Mary help us to avail of the present time to listen and put into practice the Word of God. May she obtain for us that we become more attentive to our brothers in need, to share with them whatever we have and to contribute, starting with ourselves, to spread the logic and the practice of authentic solidarity.

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