daily biblical sermons


One who lives a self-centered, self-indulgent life, forgetful of God and neighbor, will end up in hell
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Sunday, 26th Sunday of the Year, September 25, 2022
Amos 6:1, 4-7, Psalm 145 (146), 1 Timothy 6:11-16, Luke 16:19-31


Scripture quotations are taken from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted

 

 

 

“There was a rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, full of sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table; moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried; and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus in his bosom. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And he said, ‘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.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if some one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead’” (Luke 16:19-31).

 

 

This parable is very meaningful for us today, for many today are saying that they do not believe in a God who would send anyone to hell forever. They say that a good God would never do that. Others claim to be universalists; that is, they believe that salvation is universal – for every person in the world, that everyone will be saved. We also hear today those that claim that we have a reasonable hope that all men will be saved.

 

 

Today’s parable is a good correction to this. It clearly teaches us that eternity in hell with no chance of getting out is a reality of our faith given to us by Christ. We see two men: one goes to heaven when he dies; the other goes to hell, and between the two, as Abraham says, “a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here [heaven] to you [in hell] may not be able, and none may cross from there to us” (Luke 16:26).

 

 

We see that hell is also a place of torment, for the rich man who finds himself in hell cries out, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame” (Luke 16:24). His request was not granted.

 

 

How did these two men live so that one went heaven and the other to hell? All that we know about the man who went to heaven is that he was poor and suffered greatly with his body covered with sores, and he lay at the gate of this rich man so that he might receive the food that fell from his table. Since he went to heaven when he died, we can presume that he was a man of faith who put all his trust and hope in God and in a heavenly reward.

 

 

What was the other man like? He “was a rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen, and who feasted sumptuously every day” (Luke 16:19). What did he do wrong to end up in hell? Abraham tells him, “Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish” (Luke 16:25).

 

 

Abraham doesn’t say that he refused to give the poor man the food that fell from his table. If he did refuse him, surely Abraham would have mentioned that as one of the main reasons he is in hell. And surely the poor man would not continue to come to the rich man’s gate if he received nothing. He would have gone elsewhere. So we cannot hold that against him.

 

 

So what is the rich man’s fault? Surely he lacked the faith of the poor man. It was the poor man’s faith that got him into heaven. It was surely the lack of faith, love of God, and commitment of his whole life to God that caused the rich man to go to hell.

 

 

The rich man as a Jew in those days surely believed in God. So he had some kind of faith. But he didn’t live the life of a person of faith who fears God and is devoted to him, giving his whole heart to God and spending his whole life in love of God and neighbor – Jesus’ two great commandments.

 

 

Rather we can presume that his life was just the opposite. It was not focused on the love of God and the love and service of neighbor out of love of God, but rather on himself and his own worldly pleasures with an exaggerated diet, for he “feasted sumptuously every day” (Luke 16:19).

 

 

Besides feasting sumptuously every day, what else did he do with his life? Since he went to hell, I suppose we should presume that he didn’t do much else to express his love for God and neighbor. He only expressed a worldly love of himself in feeding his body in an exaggerated and gluttonous way. He did not dedicate his life to helping other people, to making the world a better place. I think we can assume that he was completely self-centered. He did not perform any spiritual or corporal works of mercy. He did not preach the gospel or preach from the Scriptures and did not substantially help the poor and probably never went to the synagogue to pray or even prayed

in his own home. By living such a life he ended up in hell.

 

 

What kind of a life does Jesus recommend that we live in order to go to heaven when we die? The New Testament is full of sayings of Jesus on this topic. He tells us that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven, “Truly, I say to you, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:23-24).

 

 

It is hard for a rich man to get into the kingdom of heaven, because he is tempted to live like a rich man, surrounding himself with worldly pleasures, sumptuous dining, fun and games, pastimes, and recreations of every kind. Such a life dissipates his affective energies that should be directed toward God and service of neighbor.

 

 

Such a life is not devoted heart and soul, mind and strength to God, which is the most important commandment, namely that “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). Would you say that this rich man did that? How could he love God with all his heart when he was loving himself with all his heart?

 

 

The second greatest commandment is, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). Would you say that this rich man did this?

 

 

Concerning riches and poverty, Jesus says, “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God … But woe to you that are rich, for you have received your consolation” (Luke 6:20, 24).

 

 

What is a perfect life like? Jesus says, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Matthew 19:21). Is this how this rich man lived?

 

 

There are two ways of life according to Jesus: the easy way that leads to destruction, and the hard and difficult way that leads to eternal life. Which way do you think this rich man took? Jesus says, “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13-14).

 

 

Which path are you on? Are you on the easy path that leads to hell or the difficult path that leads to life? Are you living a life of renunciation, simplicity, and evangelical poverty with simple eating and a disciplined life for the love of God and neighbor?

 

 

Are you losing your life in this world for the sake of Christ, or are you trying to save your life in a worldly way only to lose it, as Jesus says, “For whoever would save his life [in a worldly way] will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mark 8:35).

 

 

Are you living a worldly life dedicated to the pleasures of this world? If so, where do you think you will end up? What does St. Paul say? What kind of life did he live? He says, “But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14).

 

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