What caught my attention in the Gospel reading today was in verse 21: “even the dogs, which came were licking his sores.”[Lk. 16:21] Now I am sure that we have all heard the suggestion made to let Lassie lick our wounds for a faster healing. Is it a fact that dog saliva can help heal human wounds? Scientific research has concluded that there are compounds in dog saliva that act against infection and encourage healing. However, in contrast to the healing ability, dog saliva also has a risk of causing serious infection introduced from the bacteria and organisms also found in a dogs’ mouth. Maybe after Lassie used some mouthwash it would be safer???
But in the Gospel story, dogs were licking Lazarus’s wounds because his sores were exposed and not hidden. Saint Kyril writes: “They licked his wounds, and that, as it seems was not to injure them, but rather as sharing in his suffering and attending him.” [Commentary, P.G. 72:358AB (col. 828).] God’s created, caring for God’s created, truly man’s best friend. Sorry cat people.
The Orthodox Fathers tell us that Christ is also referring to sins when he speaks about these sores. Lazarus’s sins were exposed where as the rich man sins were well hidden in his self- righteousness and wealth. He has covered his shortcomings with layers of worldly distractions. When we go to confession, Saint Gregory the Great writes: “holy teachers give us instruction during the confession of our sins, they are touching the wounds of our hearts with their tongues.” I suppose Mouthwash is optional there as well!
In the Gospel reading, the poor beggar was known by God because his name is recorded here in the scripture. The rich man, however, has been too busy indulging in the riches of this life and abandoned his relationship with God and therefore his name is not known! Is wealth a sin? Saint Ambrose tells us: “Lazarus was a pauper in this world, but a rich man before God….Yet not all poverty is holy or wealth sinful, but as excess dishonors riches, so sanctity commends poverty.” [Ib., Bk. VIII, § 13.]
The beggar Lazarus teaches us that to truly love God is a life-struggling act of humility. The first shall be last, love others more than ourselves, and do not cling to things of this earth which at the end of our time on this earth, have no heavenly value. And just maybe one day if we reach the depth of humility and Theosis as did the servant Lazarus, we too might find ourselves being carried by angels to the bosom of Abraham!
May our Lord God bless us, keep us and have mercy upon us!
Fr. Gabriel 11/16