In today’s Gospel from Luke we hear Jesus say, “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.” I always found these to be quite interesting words, especially, “a great chasm is established between us.”
In the Gospel reading this chasm is described in terms of distance between that of the righteous and that of damned. In particular in this story it is between that of the poor man Lazarus and the rich man. The distance, however, is not just in terms of space between them but also in manner of life.
St. Paul exhorts Timothy on this manner of life when he says, “But you, man of God, pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. Compete well for the faith.” These virtues are at the heart of being a Christian. The rich man abandoned these virtues, especially the greatest one, love!
Aristotle defined 4 kinds of people, from worst to best, and he labeled them as the tyrant, the incontinent man, the continent man, and the virtuous man. The tyrant was the man who gave in completely to vice and his passions. The incontinent man was the man who struggle to live with virtue and often enough falls into vice. The continent man has many virtues but on occasion will fall into vice. Finally the virtuous man has achieved all the virtues and either never falls to vice or if so it would be rare. You can see there is a great distance between the tyrant and the virtuous man. The distance between them rests on manner of living.
Ask yourself, “Where do I fall on the scale?” Am I closer to the virtuous man or Lord forbid, the tyrant? It is a good exercise for us. Being a good Christian is not just about lip service, but actually doing and living the faith. Here is what the Lord says about lip service, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.” Rather who is it that enters the kingdom of heaven, Jesus answers, “the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” And what is the will of the Father, the answer is found in Matthew 25, “‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Jesus does not equate virtue with belief only, rather to be righteous one must as St. Paul exhorted us today, to be devout, to have faith, to love, to be patient and gentle, this is the heart of the Christian, if we do all in our power and again as St. Paul says, “Compete well for the Faith,” then yes we will become Aristotle’s virtuous man. More importantly we will become the poor man Lazarus, who was taken by angels to the bosom of Abraham and not the tyrant who was taken to torment. So as you see the chasm is not just about space as in measuring distance, but in measuring righteousness vs. evil. God bless you, Fr. John
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