Have you noticed the stark reality that our culture looks for love in all the wrong places? We are surrounded by people who are never satisfied and always grasping for love in the “next thing” that is paraded before them in the culture. Jesus tells a parable that reveals the tragic effect of disordered love, it’s referred to as The parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus.
“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on 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.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony.
The Gospel of St. Luke 16:19-25
The parable has nothing to do with wealth and everything to do with the tyranny of disordered love. The man was so consumed by what he could conjure up from this world’s goods to satisfy the hunger in his soul; this is never a good idea; is it? Created goods cannot satisfy the eternal longing of the soul for what is good, true, and beautiful. It’s also evident in this passage that the pursuit of disordered love in this life leads to eternal agony. There’s so much more we could consider in this parable but let’s leave it there, for now, and focus on what I believe the LORD desires to reveal to us in the parable. St. John wrote in his first letter to the Early Church,
Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; for all that is in the world—the lust (desire) of the flesh, the lust (desire) of the eyes, the pride in riches—comes not from the Father but from the world. And the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever.
I John 2: 15-17
The parable Jesus told illustrates this warning from St. John’s letter. The reality is that once you are dead, there are no do-overs; the choices we make in this life determine our destiny. Our best course of action is to allow his Holy Spirit to reorder our lives here and now, not just to avoid eternal torment but to live the abundant life of God’s kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven. Living this way is like investing; the immediate dividends of joy, peace, and contentment pour into our lives here and now as we store up (invest) treasures in heaven.
Sister Miriam James Heidland, S.O.L.T., writes that salvation is the ongoing process of allowing the LORD to re-order our loves. St. Ignatius referred to this process as detachment. You and I can’t simply will our salvation in one fell swoop; we must live it day by day in detaching ourselves from this world’s order. And what we discover is the generosity of our LORD as we cooperate with his Spirit in re-ordering our loves providing a bounty of goodness for us to attach to that lasts through eternity.
St. Paul really honed in on the problem of disordered loves and the solution for it in his letter to St. Timothy. St. Paul reminds his young protégé that,
…We brought nothing into the world so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.
But as for you, [beloved], shun all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called and for which you were made.
LORD God, we are already wealthy because we are your beloved children. Will your Holy Spirit continue to pry our fingers away from our disordered attachments to this world so that our hands are open and ready to receive the abundant life in the “here and now” and the “then” that our Savior, Jesus Christ, died to provide for us?
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, it is now, and ever shall be, world without end.