“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
“He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
“‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead’” (Luke 16:19-31).
The parable describes the relationship, in life and death, between an unnamed rich and a poor beggar named Lazarus. A parable is a real or imaginary narrative conveying a spiritual or moral truth. The narrative may be fundamentally real but it may contain imaginary parts. The Bible teaches truths through facts and fiction, and we cannot interpret parables literally.
Honest wealth is not bad or reprehensible, and poverty is no guarantee of salvation, but both raise ethical attitudes that influence the search for God. Jesus wants to awaken Christians in this parable. He calls the poor, hungry, thirsty and weeping as blessed, not because of poverty, but because of the ethical attitude that poverty preserves or raises. And the rich as unhappy (Luke 6:24-26), because wealth can diminish Faith and spirituality.
Someone can be rich and have a heart for the poor, cultivating detachment, humility, charity, as someone can be poor, but have a heart of rich, without charity or humility. Lazarus and Abraham had the same destiny, because both, in different circumstances, had the same love for God and the same detachment from earthly things. Christ showed the falsity which associates wealth with holiness and disease and poverty with the sin of the self or their descendants.
The parable reminds us that on earth we decide between eternity in Heaven or Hell, depending upon how we welcome the Grace of God. Search everyday means of sanctification: the Scriptures and the Sacraments! The Christian does not live by miracles, but of the ordinary means of sanctification.