The Suffering of Lazarus

After every Friday mass, we pray a rosary for priests. There is a book in the chapel you can look at called Praying for Priests, and we use their reflections to guide our rosary. One of the rosaries is related to the recent crisis we had in the Church and directs the prayers to pray for that crisis. During the first mystery the topic of suffering comes up. Quoting John Paul II, the book brings up the question. ‘when it comes to suffering in the world a question that arises is: why?’ Why does suffering exist, and a deeper question still why does evil exist in the world created by God? (See Quote at bottom)

          The Gospel provides us an example of that suffering lived out in the person of Lazarus. Lazarus is an extremely poor man who struggles to find any food to eat, who has sores on this body, and he sits at the gate of the rich man’s wealth hoping he can eat the scraps given to the dog. Lazarus is living out what many people in this world go through. A life of suffering and pain, a life that may seem like God is distant from their suffering.

          Jesus used this parable to show what is awaiting those who live a life of suffering and pain. When the question of suffering comes up, and we ask the question why we can look to this parable for an answer. Listen to what Abraham says to the rich man, “’My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented.” The rich man was comforted and received good things in this life, while Lazarus received bad things in this life. However, in the life to come Lazarus will receive good things, namely everlasting life, while the rich man will be tormented.

          We can look at this passage and find comfort for ourselves now. If we are facing any suffering or pain in our lives right now, we should not be discouraged. While the pain may not go away now in the life to come, we will receive good things; we will be comforted by God.  

          We can also look to the greatest sign of suffering and of pain that we look on every time we come into the Church. That is the crucifix the sign of our redemption and salvation. Jesus faced great suffering and pain in the cross, and through it comes our redemption. We can ask the same question of the passion of Jesus. Why would God allow his only son to suffer and die on the cross? Because through that pain and suffering will come our eternal life.

          So, I encourage all of us if we are facing any suffering and pain right now in our lives to look towards the cross. It may not relieve the suffering at the moment, and it may not make the situation any better than it is currently. However, it can give us hope during despair, amid suffering and pain.

          Someone that comes to mind is St. Mother Theresa. She faced many years of darkness and a lack of spiritual consolation in her life. She served the poorest of the poor in the world, and amid that ministry she felt a distance from God. I believe she knew that God would bring her comfort just like he did Lazarus. It may not come to her during her pilgrimage on earth. However, it would come to her in the life to come. So despite her spiritual darkness she still got up every morning and served the poorest of the poor.

          What should we do though if we feel like we are more like the rich man rather than Lazarus? What if we are receiving good things right now in our lives and not suffering? What we can do is by giving alms and being generous with the things that we have. The problem with the rich man wasn’t so much that he was rich, but rather he ignored the suffering of Lazarus. He knew Lazarus by name and was certainly aware of the bad things Lazarus was facing in life.  If we are blessed with good things we can be generous in giving them to those who don’t have as much as we do. God encourages us to give alms and to help the poor in our community.

          We can also take time to detach ourselves from worldly possessions and strive to be more connected to God. All of us, no matter how blessed we are now will face some suffering.  However, if we detach ourselves from worldly possessions and connect ourselves to God, hope will remain with us when the suffering comes.

          Lazarus is a man who is faced with much suffering in his life, and we can take hope in what he was given after his death. e He He

He was taken into the bosom of Abraham.  This was where the just went after their death, and they were comforted. The same is true for those who have gone before us into eternal life with Christ. Even if they faced suffering in their life even if they faced illness or whatever it may be, they are now experiencing joy and comfort in heaven.

What I hope we can all take away from these readings is that when we suffer in this life there is hope for us. At the same time when we are receiving good things in our lives we should be generous with what we have. As we continue our journey’s with God may we be blessed and come to receive comfort in heaven.

Within each form of suffering endured by man, and at the same time at the basis of the whole world of suffering, there inevitably arises the question: why? It is a question about the cause, the reason, and equally, about the purpose of suffering, and, in brief, a question about its meaning. Not only does it accompany human suffering, but it seems even to determine its human content, what makes suffering precisely human suffering.
It is obvious that pain, especially physical pain, is widespread in the animal world. But only the suffering human being knows that he is suffering and wonders why; and he suffers in a humanly speaking still deeper way if he does not find a satisfactory answer. This is a difficult question, just as is a question closely akin to it, the question of evil. Why does evil exist? Why is there evil in the world? When we put the question in this way, we are always, at least to a certain extent, asking a question about suffering too.
Both questions are difficult, when an individual puts them to another individual, when people put them to other people, as also when man puts them to God. For man does not put this question to the world, even though it is from the world that suffering often comes to him, but he puts it to God as the Creator and Lord of the world. And it is well known that concerning this question there not only arise many frustrations and conflicts in the relations of man with God, but it also happens that people reach the point of actually denying God. For, whereas the existence of the world opens as it were the eyes of the human soul to the existence of God, to his wisdom, power and greatness, evil and suffering seem to obscure this image, sometimes in a radical way, especially in the daily drama of so many cases of undeserved suffering and of so many faults without proper punishment. So this circumstance shows—perhaps more than any other—the importance of the question of the meaning of suffering; it also shows how much care must be taken both in dealing with the question itself and with all possible answers to it.

Salvifici Doloris 9

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