In one of Saint Therese of Lisieux’s favorite books, End of the Present World and the Mysteries of the Future Life, the author, Fr. Charles Arminjon (1824-1885) writes among many important things on the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. And he draws a most important moral Gospel lesson:
“There are circumstances when even wicked persons consent to be just, merciful and impartial.
“And, St. John Chrysostom explains, God does not forget these good acts.
“In the present life, no one can be absolutely bad; at times the most wicked malefactors comply with the moral law on certain points; amidst their dissipation, they maintain some remnants of natural virtue. Inhuman, and slaves of their cupidity, as they are, nevertheless there are rare and exceptional circumstances when they consent to be just, merciful and impartial.
Now God, reserving to Himself the task of punishing them rigorously one day on account of their crimes, and, on the other hand, desiring, for the honour of His justice, to leave no good work unrewarded, however small and imperfect it may be, often, in this world, showers pleasures and temporal goods upon the wicked and ungodly. He grants them, as to Dives, a dazzling, sumptuous life: exquisite and abundant food, soft carpets, a large number of flatterers and parasites, the glitter and pomp of all desirable pleasures. Thus Dives had received his good things.
Lazarus, by contrast, endowed with all the heavenly gifts and having attained the height of perfection by his heroic patience, had probably fallen through weakness into some slight faults. We may suppose that, at the sight of the ostentatious wealth of the man whose crumbs and surplus he had begged in vain, his heart had felt momentarily embittered and revolted. Perhaps his faith and trust had faltered and, to some extent, weakened.
Now God, who intended to place Lazarus among His elect and crown him through all eternity, and who, on the other hand, will take the just to Himself only when they have been completely purified of every fault, desired in His hidden designs that Lazarus should undergo long and difficult trials during his earthly career, and sent him sores, sickness, poverty, abandonment and contempt.
Thus, when Lazarus reached the end of his life, he had paid his debt to justice, he had received his woes. Dives and the poor man each received their due from the divine Remunerator: the rich man – sensual pleasures, honours and wealth in this life, but, in return, endless and unsparing punishments; the poor man – extreme trials and tribulations in this life, but, in compensation and at the end of the trial, unmixed and unchangeable happiness.
Thus it is that order and equality will one day be eternally restored, and that the conduct and hidden designs of divine Providence will find their complete justification on the Day of Judgement.”
“Reading this book was one of the
greatest graces of my life! — St. Thérèse of Lisieux
He who loves money will not be satisfied with money. Eccl 5:10