Luke 16:19-31
Holy Trinity as a Model of Love
 by Rev. Jack Peterson YA
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"

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Written to explain that
Christ came to save everyone.

Jesus said to the Pharisees: "There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day.  And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man's table.  Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.  When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham.  The rich man also died and was buried, and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.  And he cried out, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me.  Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.'  Abraham replied, '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.  Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours.'  He said, 'Then I beg you, father, send him to my father's house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment.'  But Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the prophets.  Let them listen them.'  He said, 'Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.'  Then Abraham said, 'If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.'"

I would like to begin today by taking a step back and remembering a fundamental truth of our Christian faith.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: "The mystery of the Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life.  It is the mystery of God in Himself.  It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them.  It is the most fundamental and essential teaching the 'hierarchy of the truths of faith'" (No. 234).

Jesus revealed that the Holy Trinity is a community of persons in an eternal relationship of love. Look for instance at the Father’s love for the Son. At Jesus’ baptism, the voice of the Father from the heavens proclaims: “This is my beloved Son, on whom my favor rests. Listen to Him” (Mk 1:11). At the Last Supper, Jesus stated: “As the father has loved me, so I have loved you” (Jn 15: 6).

Take notice of the Son’s love for the Father. “If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the father; the father is greater than I” (Jn 14:28). Toward the end of His earthly journey, Jesus said: “Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you” (Jn 17:1). To Philip, Jesus exclaims: “How can you say, ‘Show us the father?’ Do you not believe that I am in the father and the father is in me?” (Jn 14:9-10).

Finally, we understand that the Holy Spirit is the love that proceeds from the Father and the Son, bringing life to the world. Jesus reveals to us just before He departs from this world, “But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you” (Jn 16:7). The Holy Spirit enables us to call upon the Father with childlike familiarity: “The spirit upon coming to us enables us to cry out, ‘Abba!’ (Father)” (Gal 4:6). Finally, Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as the Advocate and states: “When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the spirit of truth that proceeds from the father, he will testify to me” (Jn 15: 26).

There is a fascinating pattern in how the three persons of the Holy Trinity love. Each of the three persons refers constantly to the other. True love is constantly focused on the good of the other. God made us in His image and likeness, to share in His very life and love. God made us to follow His way of being and relating. He made us to love radically, totally and sacrificially.

In contrast to the true love of God, we have the rich man in today’s Gospel, whom tradition has given the name Dives. Dives teaches us about two great temptations posed by wealth. First, money and our pursuit of it can easily distract us from being aware that all of our good things come from God. Jesus has Abraham reprimand the rich man: “Remember that you received what was good during your lifetime … .” In other words, you were quite blessed but you did not properly grasp the Giver of those gifts and your dependence upon Him. Sure, you may have been clever, hard-working and industrious, but those gifts came from God as well.

Secondly, the pursuit of riches can make us focus on ourselves exclusively — what I have, what I do not have, what I want to have in 10 years, how much I need to have to be really happy, etc. Money easily becomes an inordinate attachment that enslaves our heart, our dreams and our very lives. This slavery keeps us from seeing our hurting neighbor at our doorstep.

Jesus, in describing Lazarus, reveals His heart. He describes Lazarus as a poor man, covered with sores and desiring to eat scraps. He goes on to add that dogs even used to come and lick his sores. Jesus sees the pain and anguish of the poor and the sick, and it stirs His heart. In his riches, Dives does not even see Lazarus suffering at the door to his house.

Jesus is pretty harsh describing the outcome of this failure to address the needy in our midst: eternal torment in hell. There are very real consequences for our actions, especially the sinful ones of which we refuse to repent. This is a sobering reality that we must all face as children of the Father.

On the other hand, when our faith is real, we grow to love as God loves. We share God’s love for the poor, the sick and the outcast. We do not oversee or ignore those around us who are hurting. Rather, we serve humbly and share the gifts that God has given us because they were meant to be shared.

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