Money, pride make people ignore God's word, neglect others, pope says

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Without making room for God’s word
in their heart, people will never be able to welcome and love all human life,
Pope Francis said.

“Each life that we encounter is a gift deserving
acceptance, respect and love,” the pope said in his message for Lent,
which begins March 1 for Latin-rite Catholics.

“The word of God helps us to open our eyes to
welcome and love life, especially when it is weak and vulnerable,” he

Released by the Vatican Feb. 7, the text of the pope’s
Lenten message — titled “The Word is a gift. Other persons are gift”
— focused on the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in the Gospel of St. Luke

The parable calls for sincere conversion, the pope said,
and it “provides a key to understanding what we need to do in order to
attain true happiness and eternal life.”

In the Gospel account, Lazarus and his suffering are
described in great detail. While he is “practically invisible to the rich
man,” the Gospel gives him a name and a face, upholding him as worthy, as
“a gift, a priceless treasure, a human being whom God loves and cares for,
despite his concrete condition as an outcast,” the pope wrote.

The parable shows that “a right relationship with
people consists in gratefully recognizing their value,” he said. “A
poor person at the door of the rich is not a nuisance, but a summons to
conversion and to change.”

But in order to understand how to open one’s heart and
see the other as gift, a person must see how the word of God operates.

One way to do that, he said, is to be aware of the
temptations and traps the rich man fell victim to, derailing his search for
true happiness.

The nameless “rich man” lives an opulent,
ostentatious life, the pope wrote, and his love of money leads to vanity and
pride — “the lowest rung of this moral degradation.”

“The rich man dresses like a king and acts like a
god, forgetting that he is merely mortal,” he said. “For those
corrupted by love of riches, nothing exists beyond their own ego. Those around
them do not come into their line of sight. The result of attachment to money is
a sort of blindness. The rich man does not see the poor man who is starving,
hurting, lying at his door.”

Love of money, St. Paul warned, “is the root of all
evils,” and the pope said, it is also “the main cause of corruption
and a source of envy, strife and suspicion.”

“Instead of being an instrument at our service for
doing good and showing solidarity toward others, money can chain us and the
entire world to a selfish logic that leaves no room for love and hinders
peace,” he added.

The rich man’s eyes are finally opened after he and
Lazarus are dead; Lazarus finds comfort in heaven and the rich man finds
torment in “the netherworld,” because, as Abraham explains, “a
kind of fairness is restored” in the afterlife and “life’s evils are
balanced by good,” the pope said.

The rich man then asks for an extraordinary sign —
Lazarus coming back from the dead — to be given to his family members so they
will repent and not make the same mistake as he.

But, Abraham said the people have plenty of teachings
with “Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them,” the pope

This explains what the real problem is for the rich man’s
and those like him: “At the root of all his ills was the failure to heed
God’s word. As a result, he no longer loved God and grew to despise his neighbor,”
the pope said.

The pope asked that Lent be a time “for renewing our
encounter with Christ, living in his word, in the sacraments and in our

“May the Holy Spirit lead us on a true journey of
conversion, so that we can rediscover the gift of God’s word, be purified of
the sin that blinds us and serve Christ present in our brothers and sisters in
need,” he said, especially by taking part in the various Lenten campaigns
sponsored by local churches.

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Editor’s Note: The text of the pope’s message in English
is online at:

The text of the pope’s
message in Spanish is online at:

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