Archbishop Michel Sabbah: 'Between goodness and evil there is a great abyss'

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Sunday 13.10.2019

The parable of the rich and the poor (Luke 16: 19-31) – I

This week we reflect on the "parable of the rich and the poor".

Lord Jesus said:

“There was a rich man who used to dress in purple and fine linen and feast magnificently every day. And at his gate there used to be a poor man called Lazarus, who lied outside his house covered with sores, who longed to fill himself with what fell from the rich man's table. Even dogs came and licked his sores.

“Now it happened that the poor man died and was carried away by the angels into Abraham's embrace. The rich man also died and was buried.

In his torment in Hades he looked up and saw Abraham a long way off with Lazarus in his embrace.

“So he cried out: Father Abraham, pity me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in agony in these flames. Abraham said: My son, remember that during your life you had your fill of good things, just as Lazarus his fill of bad. Now he is being comforted here while you are in agony. But that is not all: Between us and you a great abyss has been fixed, to prevent those who want to cross from our side to yours or from your side to ours.

“So he said: Father, I beg you then to send Lazarus to my father's house, since I have five brothers, to give them warning so that they do not come to this place of torment too. Abraham said: They have Moses and the prophets, let them listen to them. The rich man replied: Ah no, father Abraham, but if someone comes to them from the dead, they will repent.

Then Abraham said to him: If they will not listen either to Moses or to the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead" (Lk 16: 19-31).

Monday 14.10.2019

The parable of the rich and the poor (Luke 16: 19-31) – II

“There was a rich man who used to dress in purple and fine linen and feast magnificently every day. And at his gate there used to be a poor man called Lazarus, who lied outside his house covered with sores, who longed to fill himself with what fell from the rich man's table. Even dogs came and licked his sores.

What is wrong is not to be rich. What is wrong is that there is at the same time rich and poor, wealth and poverty, a human being with excess of his need and another who is deprived of his daily bread. What is wrong is not to consider your brother who is in need.
The individuals are responsible, but the society and the state also in a special way. The individual, as a human being, has a duty to take care of himself and to care for others. The one who has money, whether he has much or little, as a human being, must always know that what he owns belongs also to the whole creation, and that his wealth should be shared with all his brothers in humanity, in the right ways of sharing. To be selfish, not to recognize his “brother at his door”, is a violation of the laws of creation and the laws of humanity. We are all one creation, one family, and the creation of one God.

The society, the state, is also responsible for the sharing of wealth, for a just distribution according to “human” rules, and “human” economic system that does not keep the wealth of the rich and keep the poor at the “door of the rich” or in the streets. The first concern of the state is to create a society in which every citizen finds his humanity and dignity, not in absolute equality of wealth, but in the sufficient abundance that preserves the dignity of every human being.

Tuesday 15.10.2019

The parable of the rich and the poor (Luke 16: 19-31) – III

“Now it happened that the poor man died and was carried away by the angels into Abraham's embrace. The rich man also died and was buried. In his torment in Hades he looked up and saw Abraham a long way off with Lazarus in his embrace. So he cried out…”

This life ends, for every human being. After this life, a new life begins. Some people doubt, either because of being drown in this earth reality, or because of intellectual doubts. They find all their being, and wishes, in this Earth, and deprive themselves of the ability to extend their sight and wishes beyond it.

Man is body and soul. God made him good. But some have forgotten why they are on this Earth. They confine their whole existence and wishes in it, in moments of pleasure, or moments of death and escape. Everything ends. Man is passing. The psalmist said: “Lord. I am a guest in your house, a nomad like all my ancestors” (Ps 39: 12). Man is a guest on this Earth.

When one knows himself passing on this Earth, he tries to make grow goodness in himself, so that he will exit being more in the image of God, than a killer or oppressor of himself or his brothers. A man full of his humanity knows that he needs a complement. Therefore, he prepares himself to the new life beyond time, in eternity.

Man's natural complement is the perfection of his existence in the vision of God, eternal vision and happiness that will never end.

The poor one died and the rich died. Each of them received what he had prepared for himself on Earth. The poor man returned full of wishes of life, and he found it. The rich went full of this Earth, and found himself beyond the Earth, empty of eternity, though all his existence was pushed to eternity. He found himself incapable of the new life beyond time and Earth. He called Abraham, but he remained screaming, wanting life, while he himself made himself incapable of life. That was his torment.

Man's life on Earth begins by being a life with one’s brothers and sisters, while he is a guest on this Earth. Then, it is a life with God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth. The vision of God fills his essence and in it he finds his happiness.

Wednesday 16.10.2019

The parable of the rich and the poor (Luke 16: 19-31) –IV

“There was a rich man who used to dress in purple and fine linen and feast magnificently every day. And at his gate there used a poor man to lie called Lazarus.”

We note in the parable that the poor has a name, while the rich one is defined only by his richness. He amplified the importance of his richness at the expense of his humanity. He lost his name and identity and became known only as “the rich one”. In any case, what matters is: How does one behave with his brothers and sisters? With this, through brothers’ love, man is defined and known, and is. Does he live alone with his richness, or does he live with his brother, with every brother, whether he has money or not? What is important is to be human, and what distinguishes a human is his concern for his brother. A healthy human society can be built, when all form a single entity, with the sole purpose of building a human being, providing a decent life for each one. With this dignity, fixed in every one, without exception, man is able to build the Earth and organize human societies filled with life, not with wars and famines, and people like Cain, killers of themselves and of their brothers and sisters.

The poor man has a name. Money is in itself something good. But it is not a human name. Not even a characteristic of humanity. The basic human name is that one is a "brother to every brother" in all humankind, starting with the society in which one lives and builds it with others. Money is only a means. When man is a brother to his brother, the money he has remains well, and remains linked with the goodness of God, the Creator of Heaven and earth.

The poor man has a name. The owner of the money may have a name, but on a condition, if he wants: if he remains a brother to all his brothers and sisters.

Thursday 17.10.2019

The parable of the rich and the poor (Luke 16: 19-31) –V

“Now it happened that the poor man died and was carried away by the angels into Abraham's embrace. The rich man also died and was buried”.

The poor died and the angels carried him to God his Creator. And the rich one died. He was buried in the Earth. The poor is saved not because he was poor, or deprived of money, but because he kept looking at God his Creator. The rich man has not been condemned because he was rich. Rather, because he neglected, he did not see, he did not look at a brother, who needed daily bread. The rich man was able to provide it to him, and he did not.

The parable did not say that the rich man has committed any sin, that her robbed, killed or was adulterous, no. His only sin is that he did not recognize his brother who needed daily bread. The sin of the rich man in this parable may be the sin of many, whether rich or poor. Distorting life from its nature is transforming it into an individual, selfish life, and because of selfishness, man distorts oneself and becomes unable to see his brothers.

Heaven, and happiness with God, is a natural extension of a human life in which one sees and takes care of his brother. Whoever sees his brother and cares for him deserves to see God. The incapacity of seeing God's face is an extension of the blindness of man who has not seen his brother, who has not heeded, who has deprived or oppressed him. Happiness and the vision of God is a natural complement to a human life in which one saw his brother and cared for him.

Friday 18.10.2019

The parable of the rich and the poor (Luke16: 19-31)-VI

“In his torment in Hades he looked up and saw Abraham a long way off with Lazarus in his embrace. So he cried out: Father Abraham, pity me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in agony in these flames. Abraham said: My son, remember that during your life you had your fill of good things, just as Lazarus his fill of bad. Now he is being comforted here while you are in agony. But that is not all: between us and you a great abyss has been fixed, to prevent those who want to cross from our side to yours or from your side to ours”.

After this life there will be another life. Jesus said: “Anyone who believes in me, even though that person dies, will live” (John 11, 25).

After this life there will be a life of reward or punishment. Each one prepares for himself his eternal life, by the way he lived his life on Earth. If his life was a sharing with all his brothers in order to build the Earth, he would have prepared for himself eternal life. If not, if he does not see his brother on Earth, the Earth will be a prelude to an eternal life of torment.

In fact, every human act carries in itself its reward or punishment, here, on Earth, and beyond this life. This is a human law, to which the great and the small, the good and the bad, the peacemaker and the war-maker are subjects. The bad, the war makers on this Earth are not protected by their money, their armies or their weapons. The oppressor of his brother oppresses himself at the same time, and the murderer of his brother kills life in himself too. The dictators or the arrogant suffers from their own evil today, and they will suffer tomorrow, in God’s unwished to-morrow.

God is merciful and compassionate. It is true. He loves and has mercy on all His children. But He is also just and protects the oppressed from their oppressors. "Vengeance is mine. I will pay them back, the Lord promises." (Heb 10: 30; Rom 12,19)

“Between us and you a great abyss has been fixed”. Between goodness and evil there is a great abyss, like the abyss between existence and non-existence, between being human and being inhuman, when someone strips himself from his humanity, and makes his earthly life a suffering for himself and others, and a suffering in eternity.

Each one prepares his own eternity, it will be a complement of good or evil, a life of eternal joy with God, or a life of eternal suffering.

Saturday 19.10.2019

The parable of the rich and the poor (Lk 16: 19-31) –VI

“They have Moses and the prophets, let them listen to them. The rich man replied: Ah no, father Abraham, but if someone comes to them from the dead, they will repent. Then Abraham said to him: If they will not listen either to Moses or to the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead" (Luke 16: 19-31).

Some ask for miracles, in order to believe. Some of those who listened to Jesus have asked for miracles, although they had already seen his miracles. They saw and did not believe. They asked for more. (Matthew 12:38). Many among the learned and leaders of the people, in the time of Jesus, heard and saw what the simple and the little heard and saw. The simple and the little believed. But the learned and leaders did not, and continued to ask for miracles from heaven.

God gives light to all people. Some see it. Some do not. God gives His grace to all people. Some accept it and some reject it.

The miracle benefits the pure heart that has preserved its ability to see God in his creation. It does not benefit those who do not want to see.

The rush to “miracles” or extraordinary phenomena, that we sometimes see here or there, needs reflection and more reasoning. God speaks to us always and normally through ordinary events. Every incident is a sign, a word from God to those who listen. In everything that happens to him, the believer asks himself: What does God want to tell me through this incident?

God speaks also to us through Holy Scriptures. They are a living word of God. Abraham said to the rich: "Let them read Moses and the Prophet. Let them read, listen, and hear God's voice in the Scriptures”.

True believers need not miracles. When they are faced with extraordinary happenings, those who are used to listen to God’s voice, know also to distinguish between right and wrong when such phenomena occur. But true faith, true reason and simple heart need no miracles.

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