The Perspective of Justice

A Truly Human Life

There are three images in this liturgy.

The first is the image of the rich, “stretched comfortably on their couches and dressed in purple and linen and feasting splendidly every day.”

The second is the image of the “beggar named Lazarus who was covered with sores” which the dogs came and licked. “Lazarus longed to eat the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table.”

The third is the image of God, who supports, lifts up, heals, protects and feeds the oppressed, the hungry, captives, the blind, strangers, the fatherless and the widow.

The rich man ended up in eternal misery, separated from God. In ignoring the needs of the beggar, he had made himself un-Godlike. He had made a statement about the poor, and in so doing he had cut himself off from the God who protects the poor.

There is only one God to spend eternity with, the God who “secures justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry.” The rich man attached himself to another god, and in the process he lost eternity.

Meanwhile, the poor man gained eternal life. He had suffered enough, God said.

It is not simply a question of eliminating hunger and reducing poverty. It is not enough to combat destitution, urgent and necessary as this is. The point at issue is the establishment of a human society in which everyone, regardless of race, religion, or nationality, can live a truly human life free from bondage imposed by men and the forces of nature not sufficiently mastered, a society in which freedom is not an empty word, and where Lazarus the poor man can sit at the same table as the rich man.

Pope Paul VI,
Populorum Progressio, 1967:47

Gerald Darring


**From Saint Louis University

Kristin Clauson