What is the purpose of your life on earth? To this question, there could be many answers as there are many people with diverse mindsets and value systems. For the epicureans (those who believe in worldly pleasure), the purpose of life consists of eating and drinking and indulging in sensual pleasures. According to the Bible, their maxim runs thus, “let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we shall die” (Isaiah 22:13; 1 Cor.15:32).
We see the trend of epicureanism running through the liturgy of the Word today. In the First Reading (Amos 6:1a, 4-7), God pronounces woe to the complacent in Zion who indulge in mundane luxury leveraging food, drink, best oils, exotic music, and material comfort.
Why did God call them “the complacent?” The complacent is someone who exudes the feeling of contentment or self-satisfaction and is often careless about what the future holds, especially the potential dangers. A perfect example of a materially complacent individual in the Bible would be the rich fool who, after recording a vast harvest complacently says to his soul “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink, and be merry.” (Luke 12:19).
The Poor Lazarus and the Rich Epicurean
The parable of Lazarus and the rich man is one of the famous passages we have in the Gospels. According to the parable, there was an unnamed rich man who had everything going for him and would feast daily. At his door lay Lazarus, a poor sick man who would gladly eat the scraps from the rich man’s table, but nobody would offer him anything. The only help he could get was from dogs who come around to lick his sores.
Afterward, both the rich man and Lazarus go the way of mortals; namely, the route of death. While money could buy so many things in life, it cannot stop death when it finally comes. Death is open to everyone; the rich and the poor, the young and the old, the good and the bad.
The parable of Lazarus and the rich man helps us to understand that there is another life after this earthly existence. Pay attention to what happened when they passed. Lazarus is the first to die, and there was no mention of a funeral, but his soul was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham.
Note well that while he was on earth, nobody could come close to him except the dogs. But on his way to the Afterlife, he had the privilege of having angels transport him to heaven and bring him to the bosom of Abraham. Being at the bosom of Abraham, the father of faith shows his patience and trust in God despite his condition on earth. He believed that his condition would not be his conclusion.
On the other hand, the rich man dies, and unlike Lazarus, he receives an elaborate and befitting funeral. However, there is no mention of angels taking him, and he did not go to the bosom of Abraham. He instead finds himself in a place of torment and scarcity where he could not get as little as a drop of water. At this point, the poor Lazarus becomes eternally rich while the wealthy epicurean becomes perpetually miserable.
Moving forward, the rich man sees Lazarus enjoying at the bosom of Abraham while he languishes in scarcity Notice that the rich man could recognize Lazarus at this point, but he did not pay attention to him on earth. Furthermore, his two requests for a drop of water from the tip Lazarus’ finger and to have him go back to the world to warn his five brothers did not receive positive answers; why? His prayers are useless in that location because he had the opportunity on earth to make a difference, but he could not.
Moving Forward: Preparing for the Afterlife
The rich man did not go to hell because of his wealth, and Lazarus did not find himself in a glorious Afterlife because he was poor and sick. The difference between the two individuals and what determined their respective rewards was their attitude and disposition to what they had or what they did not have. Attitude is the key to our success or failure in life.
The rich man’s attitude shows that he takes material wealth and worldly pleasure as the end and purpose of life. For him, life is all about how much you could eat and drink, what you can wear and how flamboyant one could be. The rich man did not realize that life is not all about eating and drinking but justice, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans14:17). St. Paul adds that we should not destroy the work of God on account of food (Romans 14:20).
Lazarus, on the other hand, made it to the bosom of Abraham in heaven because he allowed the love of God to overwhelm him while being patient and having total trust in God. Notice that he didn’t grumble nor complain against the rich man; he had hope in God that he would receive divine elevation at the end of his earthly struggles.
The message today invites us not to put our trust and hope on riches even when they increase (Psalm 62:10). Complacency on riches would deprive us of eternal bliss like the rich man. Finally, St. Paul tells us to consider whatever that is true, honorable, just, holy, lovable, of good repute, virtuous, and anything worthy of praise.
As we step into a new week, let us pay attention to the eternal realities instead of material concerns that would deprive us of everlasting happiness in heaven. Let us be apt enough to make choices for the things that would help us rather than the ones that would harm us in the Afterlife. God bless you!