Today’s gospel lesson from Luke 16:19-31 tells the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus in which Jesus contrasts the uncaring rich man and the needy Lazarus. It is the story of the rich man and the poor man. It was neither the rich man’s wealth nor Lazarus’ poverty that the Parable speaks, but rather their personal relationship to each other and God. Neither wealth nor poverty sends someone to heaven or hell, but rather the manner in which they live in their own situation.
The rich man would not have gone to hell if he had filled his heart and cared for God and his fellow man. And likewise, Lazarus would not have gone to heaven had he filled his heart with hatred for the uncaring rich man and resentment towards God for his own deprived situation. Deprivations and suffering often remind us of our need for God and lead us closer to Him, but the same circumstances can make us complain, angry, greedy, separating us from God. It has been said “affliction can teach a man to pray but can also teach him to curse!” You see Brothers and Sisters only love, not need and distress, leads us to heaven.
Jesus also taught us through this parable that heaven and hell are far more permanent realities than our journey here on earth. In other words, our short journey on earth provides us with the unique opportunity to prepare for our eternal journey in God’s kingdom.
It is indeed appropriate that today, we also commemorate the Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos, “Joy of All Who Sorrow of Moscow” one of the famous depictions of the Virgin Mary. This icon which was Glorified in 1888 centered around a healing miracle which occurred on October 24, 1688 to the sister of Patriarch Joachim, named Euphymia, when a voice instructed her to find this icon and have a priest celebrate a moleben and bless water, after which she was healed.
Thus today is a truly joyful day on which we give thanks to Almighty God for all His Blessings upon us as we journey through life.