On Lazarus and World Hunger

“He Who Is Forgotten by All Is Not Forgotten by God”

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 30, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus with the people gathered in the courtyard of the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo.

* * *
Dear Brothers and Sister!

Today, the Gospel of Luke presents the parable of the rich man and poor Lazarus (16:19-31). The rich man embodies the unjust spending of wealth by those who use it for unbridled and egotistical luxury, thinking only of satisfying themselves, without taking care of the beggar at their door.

The poor man, on the other hand, represents the person that only God cares for, and unlike the rich man, he has a name, Lazarus, an abbreviation of Eleazar, which means “God helps him.” He who is forgotten by all is not forgotten by God; he who is worth nothing in the eyes of men, is precious in the eyes of the Lord.

The story shows how earthly injustice is overturned by divine justice: After death, Lazarus is welcomed “into Abraham’s bosom,” that is to say, into eternal beatitude, while the rich man ends up “in hell among torments.” It is a new, definitive, unappealing state. Therefore it is during this life that one must repent; doing so afterward is useless.

This parable also lends itself to a social interpretation. Paul VI’s encyclical “Populorum Progressio,” written 40 years ago, remains memorable. In speaking about the fight against hunger, he writes: “It involves building a human community where men can live truly human lives … where the needy Lazarus can sit down with the rich man at the same banquet table” (No. 47).

The cause of the numerous situations of misery are — according to the encyclical — on the one hand, “servitude to other men” and on the other, “natural forces which they cannot yet control satisfactorily” (ibid).

Unfortunately, certain peoples suffer from both of these forces. How can we not think, especially in this moment, of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa, stricken with serious flooding over these last few days?

But we cannot forget many other situations of humanitarian emergency in various regions of the planet, in which battles for political power lead to the worsening of environmental problems already weighing on the people. The appeal Paul VI gave voice to back then: “The hungry nations of the world cry out to the peoples blessed with abundance” (“Populorum Progressio,” No. 3), has the same urgency today.

We cannot say that we do not know the road to take: We have the law and the prophets, Christ tells us in the Gospel. Whoever chooses not to listen would not change even if someone came back from the dead to warn him.

May the Virgin Mary help us to take advantage of the present time to listen and to put into practice this word of God. May she make us attentive to our brothers in need, to share with them the abundance or the little that we have, and to contribute, beginning with ourselves, to the spreading of the logic and style of authentic solidarity.

[After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father addressed the pilgrims gathered at Castel Gandolfo, saying:]

I follow the serious events taking place in Myanmar with great trepidation and I wish to express my spiritual closeness to that dear people in this moment of sorrowful difficulty that they are experiencing. While guaranteeing them my intense prayer and support, I invite the entire Church to do the same and I hope that a peaceful solution can be found, for the good of the country.

I recommend the situation of the Korean peninsula to your prayers, where important developments in the dialogue between the two Koreas are a hopeful sign that the efforts of reconciliation in act can consolidate in favor of the Korean people and to benefit the stability and peace of the entire region.

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Angelus, including members of the Acton Institute, and administrators and benefactors of Seton Hall University. Today’s Gospel reading reminds us to be generous with the good things we receive in life. In this spirit, may your visit to Castel Gandolfo and Rome be a time filled with thanksgiving and renewed love of the universal Church. Upon you and your families, I invoke the joy and peace of Christ the Lord!



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