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The silent cry of the poor throughout the ages

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The silent cry of the poor
 throughout the ages

In the parable of Lazarus and the rich
man the Pope finds “€œthe silent cry of the poor throughout the ages and the
contradictions of a world in which immense wealth and resources are in the the
hands of the few”€. The Pontiff dedicated his catechesis to the passage from
Gospel according to Luke at the General Audience on Wednesday, 18 May,
continuing his reflection on the theme of mercy in the light of the New
Testament. The following is a translation of the Holy Father”€™s catechesis,
which he gave in Italian.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Good morning!

I should like to pause with you today on
the parable of the Rich man and the poor Lazarus. The lives of these two people
seem to run on parallel tracks: their status life is opposite and not at all
connected. The gate of the rich man”€™s house is always closed to the poor man,
who lies outside it, seeking to eat the leftovers from the rich man”€™s table.
The rich man is dressed in fine clothes, while Lazarus is covered with sores;
the rich man feasts sumptuously every day, while Lazarus starves. Only the dogs
take care of him, and they come to lick his wounds. This scene recalls the
harsh reprimand of the Son of Man at the Last Judgement: “€œI was hungry and you
gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was […] naked and
you did not clothe me”€ (Mt 25:42-43). Lazarus is a good example of the silent
cry of the poor throughout the ages and the contradictions of a world in which
immense wealth and resources are in the the hands of the few.

says that one day that rich man died: the poor and the rich die, they have the
same destiny, like all of us, there are no exceptions to this. Thus, that man
turned to Abraham, imploring him in the name of “€˜father”€™ (vv. 24, 27). Thereby
claiming to be his son, belonging to the People of God. Yet in life he showed
no consideration toward God. Instead he made himself the centre of all things,
closed inside his world of luxury and wastefulness. In excluding Lazarus, he
did not take into consideration the Lord nor his law. To ignore a poor man is
to scorn God! We must learn this well: to ignore the poor is to scorn God.
There is a detail in the parable that is worth noting: the rich man has no
name, but only an adjective: “€˜the rich man”€™; while that of the poor man is
repeated five times, and “€˜Lazarus”€™ means “€˜God helps”€™. Lazarus, who is lying at
the gate, is a living reminder to the rich man to remember God, but the rich
man does not receive that reminder. Hence, he will be condemned not because of
his wealth, but for being incapable of feeling compassion for Lazarus and for
not coming to his aid.

the second part of the parable, we again meet Lazarus and the rich man after
their death (vv. 22-31). In the hereafter the situation is reversed: the poor
Lazarus is carried by the angels to Abraham”€™s bosom in heaven, while the rich
man is thrown into torment. Thus the rich man “€œlifted up his eyes, and saw
Abraham far off and Lazarus in his bosom”€. He seems to see Lazarus for the
first time, but his words betray him: “€œFather Abraham”€, he calls, “€œhave mercy
upon 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”€. Now the rich man recognizes Lazarus
and asks for his help, while in life he pretended not to see him. How often do
many people pretend not to see the poor! To them the poor do not exist. Before
he denied him even the leftovers from his table, and now he would like him to
bring him a drink! He still believes he can assert rights through his previous
social status. Declaring it impossible to grant his request, Abraham personally
offers the key to the whole story: he explains that good things and evil things
have been distributed so as to compensate for earthly injustices, and the door
that in life separated the rich from the poor is transformed into “€œa great
chasm”€. As long as Lazarus was outside his house, the rich man had the
opportunity for salvation, to thrust open the door, to help Lazarus, but now
that they are both dead, the situation has become irreparable. God is never
called upon directly, but the parable clearly warns: God”€™s mercy toward us is
linked to our mercy toward our neighbour; when this is lacking, also that of
not finding room in our closed heart, He cannot enter. If I do not thrust open
the door of my heart to the poor, that door remains closed. Even to God. This is

this point, the rich man thinks about his brothers, who risk suffering the same
fate, and he asks that Lazarus return to the world in order to warn them. But
Abraham replies: “€œThey have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them”€. In
order to convert, we must not wait for prodigious events, but open our heart to
the Word of God, which calls us to love God and neighbour. The Word of God may
revive a withered heart and cure it of its blindness. The rich man knew the
Word of God, but did not let it enter his heart, he did not listen to it, and
thus was incapable of opening his eyes and of having compassion for the poor
man. No messenger and no message can take the place of the poor whom we meet on
the journey, because in them Jesus himself comes to meet us: “€œas you did it to
one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me”€ (Mt 25:40), Jesus
says. Thus hidden in the reversal of fate that the parable describes lies the
mystery of our salvation, in which Christ links poverty with mercy.

brothers and sisters, listing to this Gospel passage, all of us, together with
the poor of the earth, can sing with Mary: “€œHe has put down the mighty from
their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; he has filled the hungry with
good things, and the rich he has sent empty away”€ (Lk 1:52-53).


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