Friends, today’s Gospel focuses on the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man “dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day,” while lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, “who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table.”
God is not pleased with this kind of economic inequality, and he burns with a passion to set things right. This theme came roaring up out of the Bible and into the Christian tradition, and it echoes up and down the centuries. Even though it makes us uncomfortable—and God knows it does, especially those of us who live in the most affluent society in the world—we can’t avoid it because it’s everywhere in the Bible.
St. Thomas Aquinas says that we must distinguish between ownership and use of private property. We have a right to ownership through our hard work, through our inheritance. Fair enough. But with regard to the use of those things—how we use them, why we use them—then, says Thomas, we must always be concerned first for the common good and not our own. This especially includes Lazarus at our gate: those who are suffering and most in need.