Fr Luke A. Veronis

Life is an unfair mystery. We talked about this a few weeks ago in our youth sermon but today’s Gospel highlights this point to us once again. Life is an unfair mystery. Why do many innocent people face war and violence in Gaza or Ukraine, while others, like us Americans, never have to worry about the horrors of war, or about having family members killed, being displaced from our homes, or living in fear every day. Every year when we take a group to Mexico I always wonder why we were born on this side of the border, and how different our lives would be if we were born south of the border. Why were we born here?  Life is an unfair mystery.

And then I think, what have I done to deserve all that I have? Being born in America. Growing up in a loving, stable family. Being a part of middle class American, with all the benefits and opportunities which come with such a middle class lifestyle? Being an Orthodox Christian, and not being a Muslim or Hindu or Buddhist from another part of the world. Growing up in a family of faith is a blessing I received unasked for, simply something passed on to me at my birth.

Life is an unfair mystery. We have many things we don’t deserve or didn’t do anything for, and others have many challenges and struggles for which they don’t deserve or have done nothing for.

I think about this as I listen to today’s Gospel story. It begins by describing a very rich man who wore luxurious clothing and ate sumptuously every day. He was extremely blessed materially. Outside the gate of his house, however, lay a poor, desperate man who was so pathetic, he simply waited to eat the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table. He was in such a wretched state that the dogs would come up and lick his wounds, and he couldn’t do anything about it.

A picture of two very different people. Now, the Gospels don’t say anything about how the rich man became rich, or how the poor man became so desperately poor but there’s a good chance it was simply the luck of the draw at birth. One was born into a wealthy family, and one born into a poor family.

More often than not, that is the birth lottery we all face. For many, we are born in America, we are born into a stable family that gives us much and sets us up for a good life. We are born into a Christian home and for most of us, embrace Christianity from a young age. We are given much of what we have without deserving it or earning it.

Life is an unfair mystery. For some, we are given much. For some, we are given little.

We can’t control or determine certain things in life, but one of the lessons I see from today’s Gospel is what we do with whatever we have been given in life will determine our eternal future. If we’ve been given much, what will we do with our blessings? If we’ve been given little, how will we respond to the challenges we face?

In the Gospel story, the rich man ends up in Hades. Yet, he doesn’t end up in Hades simply because he’s rich. He ends up in Hades because of what he did with his wealth. He chose to live a self-centered life, a life of extravagance while ignoring the needs of people right in front of him, right outside his doorstep. He was either blinded by his wealth, or blinded by his arrogance and ignorance thinking that he deserved such blessings, and therefore he acted indifferently to the needs of those right in front of him.

The poor man, whose name is Lazaros, goes into the bosom of Abraham after his death, which is an image of heaven. He doesn’t go there simply because he is poor. There are many poor people who use their poverty as an excuse for evil behavior. They look at themselves as victims and feel the world owes them something, and thus, respond to their situation with reckless abandon. I think Jesus noted the name of the poor man, however, to highlight the attitude this man had in his extreme poverty. Lazaros means “God is my help.”

In his poverty and suffering, Lazaros didn’t despair but turned to God. He lived hoping in God even in the midst of his unfair suffering. He trusted in God as his rock and refuge. “God is my help,” Lazaros could say, and that is why he ends up in the bosom of Abraham.

Yes, life is an unfair mystery. The question we must wrestle with today, however, is what we will do with whatever life gives us. Will we complain about life’s unfair mystery, or accept whatever has been given to us, and make the most of it.

Our Lord said, “to whom much is given, much will be require.” If we have been blessed with much, how will we use our blessings to bless others. How will we overcome the temptation to waste it on ourselves and justify our extravagant living? God blesses us so that we will bless others. He gives to us so that we can share with others. He has given us all that we have as stewards, or caretakers, who are supposed to carefully use all we have to glorify God and help others.

In like manner, when we have little what will we do? Will we still live with hope and in faith, knowing that whatever we suffer now is only temporary. Saint Paul would say that the suffering of this time is not worth comparing to the glory that awaits us. We should never despair with whatever challenges and even suffering we face in life, because it is all temporary. We are being tested by our trials and tribulations. We must imitate Lazaros and remember always that “God is my help.” We never despair and never give into darkness because God is with us and will see us out of this suffering in His timing.

Life is an unfair mystery. And part of this mystery is that none of us know what tomorrow will bring. Even for us who have been so richly blessed in this lifetime, we never know what will happen tomorrow. An unexpected accident or a fatal illness may come our way. Life can change drastically overnight.

Thus, we remember that the Lord gives and the Lord takes away, and blessed be the name of the Lord aways. We will take the blessings, thanking God and using all our gifts to bless others. And we will take the crosses, thanking God, and remembering never to lose hope even in the midst of our challenges.Life is an unfair mystery, but when we face this mystery, good or bad, with faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, we can always rejoice and be glad. May we strive to us the good to bless others while accepting the crosses by trusting  in God as our help!


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