Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
LET US GIVE THANKS TO THE LORD
I give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart. Psalm 9:1
Jesus said, “There was a rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, full of sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table; moreover, the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried; and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus in his bosom. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them here them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’” Luke 17: 19-31
Good morning Prayer Team!
This is harsh passage to read, no matter what time of the day you are reading it. There are many messages in this story, some of which have to do with gratitude. The rich man, to begin with, did not go to hell because he was rich, but because he was indifferent. He had so much stuff, including stuff he wasn’t using. Jesus tells us that Lazarus would have been thankful to eat the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table. Lazarus would have been happy to eat the crumbs that the rich man wasn’t going to eat anyway. Day after day, there was an opportunity to be grateful for what he had, and to put his gratitude into action by helping poor Lazarus and the rich man just couldn’t do it. Or wouldn’t.
Lazarus, on the other hand, would have been grateful to eat what fell from the table. He didn’t begrudge the rich man his wealth. Lazarus would have been grateful for subsistence. Lazarus never attacked the rich man or stole from him. He just accepted his station, his sickness, his sores, and made the best of it.
In time both men died. Lazarus was rewarded for his patience. The rich man was punished for his indifference. It is interesting to note that when he was in hell, all of sudden the rich man found virtue—he found the compassion that he lacked in life. He started caring about the salvation of his brothers. Christ tells us that it is too late for us to believe once life has ended. We can’t love our neighbor after our life on earth is over. That’s why it is important to love our neighbor in this life.
Love of our neighbor comes from a sense of generosity, for to love is to give of oneself to someone else. Whether we are giving our time to help our neighbor, or whether we are giving money or material goods to help our neighbor, the impetus to be generous comes from a sense of gratitude. Gratitude for what we have inspires us to share what we have with others. Thankfulness is gratitude in action. So gratitude for what we have inspires cheerful and thankful giving to others.
No one is suggesting that the rich man should have cut his riches in half and gave half of them to Lazarus. Maybe he and Lazarus wouldn’t have been friends, maybe they had little in common, maybe eating together would have been an unpleasant experience. But this man, who had so much abundance, should have recognized that Lazarus had a need for basic sustenance and should have given him food. Giving reflects our sense of love for God and neighbor. Giving reflects our sense of compassion and mercy, because sometimes we are called to give to those who don’t deserve the things we offer. However if we desire mercy and compassion from God, mercy and compassion that perhaps we do not deserve, we must be willing to offer the same. And giving reflects our sense of gratitude and thankfulness. If we are grateful for what we have, then with a thankful heart, we should joyfully give to those in need, recognizing that all good gifts are from God. So in giving to others from the blessings we have received from God, we are not giving, but rather giving back.
The rich man did not see God as His benefactor. Thus He could not see Christ as His Savior. And thus he was condemned rather than saved. So thankfulness is also tied to faith. If we have faith, this makes us thankful, which bolsters generosity, which deepens our faith. Generosity and faith strengthen each other, because one reflects love for God and the other for our neighbor. And gratitude bolsters both.
Lord, help me to always be grateful for what I have. And help me to always share what I have with others with a joyful and thankful heart. Bring someone into my path today that needs help and give me a giving heart, today and always. Remember all those who suffer because of our indifference to them. Amen.
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