[People] Can the Guilty Rich Repent? by Fr. Shay Cullen

Can the Guilty Rich Repent?
(Fr. Shay’s columns are published in The Manila Times,
in publications in Ireland, the UK, Hong Kong, and on-line.)
The photograph of Juanito, a street boy, 14, dressed in nothing but dirty shorts, his only earthly possession. He was poverty personified.

He is seen as skinny, the bones are outlined through his sickly skin, his eyes are dark and hollow and there is a septic wound on his left elbow. He was hit by a passing vehicle when begging for food. I took that photo the day we found him and brought him to the PREDA home for street boys to be treated, fed and given a new start in life. He was transformed and unrecognizable after a year.

When Jesus of Nazareth told the story of the starving beggar Lazarus lying outside the gates of Mr. Rich (Dives) where the only compassion and care he got for his septic sores was from the dogs that came and licked his wounds to try and heal him. No human showed such compassion. Least of all Mr. Rich who was dressed in fine clothes and dined stupendously every day from a table that groaned with the weight of rich food and drink. There was bread there too because in the story Mr. Rich was so mean and selfish that he would not even give the crumbs that fell on the floor to the dying beggar.

The life of Mr. Rich a grim picture of greed and selfishness and a degenerate life of some of the rich and wealthy of this world. The story goes on to tell of what happens when they both die and go to the after life. Mr. Rich is cast to the burning loneliness of hell and Lazarus is welcomed into paradise. Mr. Rich calls to Father Abraham for Lazarus to come and give him a drop of water but it is not allowed. There is no forgiveness after the final curtain call and Abraham tells Mr. Rich that he had it all in his earthly life and there is no crossing over and no way out.

Lazarus had it rough but in the end he was sinless and deserving of paradise. There is a glimmer of a partial answer to the question of suffering and evil in the world. How could a good and loving God allow suffering and starvation? Jesus’ story puts the responsibility for suffering and evil squarely on those who cause it by their selfish, greedy choices not to share and help others. In this story he singles out the irresponsible rich. Mr. Rich has free will, which is what makes him a person, much more exalted than dogs. But his greed puts him on a level lower than the dogs that alone show compassion to Lazarus and try to heal his sores.

In the climate of economic hardship the news that some of the super rich of France are having a guilty time of it and have asked the government to charge them higher tax rates is astounding. They must be having a Lazarus moment as the Western World careers towards economic collapse all because of the greed of the rich. Perhaps they are not going to wait for the Lazarus people of this world to condemn them as being less compassionate than dogs.

One of the world’s richest men, billionaire Warren Buffett (who lives a very simple life style) says its wrong that he pays less tax than his employees. Now the super rich of France are struck with the wave of guilt or is it just more greed? They say they want to help France overcome its huge deficit. The rich don’t pay taxes and the French government borrowed to deliver public services and is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. Sixteen of the richest people signed a letter to the government of France saying in effect that they want the government to impose a temporary “Special Contribution” tax on them to help the economy. Out of the thousands of super rich only 16 signed the letter.

It seems generous but it’s really self-serving. They and their corporations made billions by paying hardly any tax and benefiting from the EU business friendly system and they want to preserve it. So to prevent the collapse of their own businesses they will pay more tax to the government until the economy improves. Then they will go back to their old bad ways and make it all back again by overpricing, exploitation and unfair practices. The advice of Jesus to the rich young man who wanted to be his disciple was “go sell all you have, give to the poor and come follow me”. That was the price of friendship but today perhaps the rich could do good and give a big lump of their money to the starving.

The thousands of Juanito’s and Lazarus people in the world will go on increasing. The bodies pile up in Somalia and the rich get richer and poorer get poorer. Only by making and implementing a really just taxation and delivering a just society can governments solve this crisis. END

2 thoughts on “[People] Can the Guilty Rich Repent? by Fr. Shay Cullen

  1. “Lazarus had it rough but in the end he was sinless and deserving of paradise.”

    The idea of anyone being worthy of paradise grates against The Gospel within me. I see your point in this regard. But I ponder that idea. I know The Lord says, “There is no one righteous”. And that it is by Grace alone we are saved. Yet, there is unspeakable value in accepting our position in life. On the other hand, I do not see options appear in the poverty stricken man’s plight. Perhaps it was God’s Grace that men suffer in this life, so that they might receive the salvation extended to the weak.

    It can be, and is, a very hotly debated subject. And it is right to call each other to accountability for the riches we have and do not wish to share. But there is the Wisdom of God which caps the understanding of man. God alone will receive all praise for the Wisdom He alone holds. Our lot is to accept that fact, regardless where we find ourselves in the food chain of life in this place of testing.

    Above all else, it cannot be stressed enough, that God will demand an accounting of all our actions according to our knowledge of His Perfect Ways. And I find a truth within my heart that screams: I have no rights from the Lord to judge either the rich man or the beggar. It is my responsibility to live a life of accountability to the Lord Jesus, lest I fall short and enter into a very intimate and close relationship with that rich man (and that for eternity).

    Thanks to God, for the truth which resides in your heart. May He richly bless our understanding as brothers of the same Lord. And may He grant us the wisdom and understanding to avoid being cast among those who will never see His Glory. For all such things remain in the hand of He who Is.

    By His Grace.


  2. I know I will meet you on that day of His appearing. And we will dance in His presence with a presently unspeakable joy! Fight with the vigor of a Lion! We are very near the end of a “Once in eternity race”.

    By His Grace.


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