On the Sunday in which the Orthodox Church reads the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), Fr. Matthew Howell encourages everyone to err on the side of compassion when it comes to dealing with the needy that we encounter. He points out that people who find themselves in poverty always come from complex circumstances and have a story that is usually more complicated than what we see on the surface. He explains how the Rich Man in the parable was condemned for “lovelessness” and for not using his money for good. In the middle of his homily, he passes around the picture (below) of a beggar holding an icon of Christ, and also passes around the quote of St. John Chrysostom found below. He ties these to a line from a the Orthodox Christian Prayers prayer book from St. Tikhon Monastery Press that asks for forgiveness for despising a poor man who came to me (see “Third Evening Prayer, to the Most Holy Spirit”, page 80). Overall, he entreats listeners to hold back judgment but instead offer compassion, kindness, and at the very least a prayer for those in need in every encounter.
Along the way, he also tells a story of a cancelled baseball game at Fenway Park, quotes St. Gregory the Great, and talks about how no child grows up wanting to live in 11 degree weather on the street in Alaska as an adult.
Brethren, I would have you know that the gospel which was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it; and I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia; and again I returned to Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas, and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother.
The Lord 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 Lazaros, 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 Lazaros in his bosom. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Lazaros 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 Lazaros 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 hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if some one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to them, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead.’