Anonymous no longer
Early Christian writers made much of today’s Gospel story. St. Augustine noted something we might overlook: “That rich man’s name was known to people, but not the poor man’s. In contrast, the Lord Jesus gives the poor man’s name, but not the rich man’s.” Already a sign that God’s scale of merit differs from ours. St. Augustine went on to describe the wealthy man, enjoying his earthly delights, constantly grabbing in order to increase his possessions, “drawing to himself the leaden weight that would cause him to drown. That great weight dragged him all the way down to hell…, for he had not heeded the words of Jesus: ‘Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened; for my yoke is easy and my burden light.’ Christ’s ‘burden’ is wings, and on those wings that poor man flew away into the bosom of Abraham.”
Two centuries later, St. Gregory was reminding his people that we encounter many Lazaruses: “they lie in front of your doors and they need the crumbs that fall from the table where you have had your fill. If we look for him, we find Lazarus every day; we see him even if we don’t look for him.” Yes, he admitted, some of the people who annoy us by their begging may be unworthy, but it’s hard to tell who the unworthy ones are, and for all we know, one of them may in fact be Christ himself.