But the rich man's words immediately betray him, the Pope said, recalling how the man asked Abraham to "send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger into the water to cool my tongue, because I am suffering terribly in the flame."
Suddenly the rich man recognizes Lazarus and knows his name, "while in life he pretended not to see him," Francis said, lamenting how all too frequently "so many people pretend not to see the poor! For them the poor don't exist."
After first denying the poor man the leftovers from his table, the rich man now asks Lazarus to fetch him something to drink, Francis said, noting that the rich man "still believes he is able to claim rights based on his previous social condition."
In turn, Abraham's response that the good and evil bestowed on the two men in the afterlife is meant "to compensate for earthly justice," offers the key to the whole parable, the Pope said.
As long as Lazarus sat outside his house, the rich man had the opportunity for salvation, yet he denied it and "the situation has become irreparable."
"God's mercy toward us is linked to our mercy toward others," Francis warned, cautioning that if this aspect is missing from our attitude, God's mercy "cannot find space inside our closed hearts, it can't enter."
"If I don't throw open the door of my heart to the poor, that door stays closed. Even for God. And this is terrible."
Pope Francis observed that when the rich man then asks if he can warn his friends and relatives, Abraham responds by telling him they have Moses and the prophets.
If we want to convert, we don't have to wait for "miraculous events," but must instead make the decision to open our hearts to the World of God, which calls us to love both God and neighbor," the Pope said.
"The Word of God can revive a withered heart and cure its blindness," he said, adding that "the rich man knew the Word of God, but didn't allow it to enter his heart, he didn't listen to it, and because of this, he was unable to open his eyes and have compassion for the poor man."
Francis closed his address by stressing that "no messenger and no message can replace the poor we meet on the journey, because in them we meet Jesus himself."
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
He encouraged all to pray alongside Mary, who in her canticle to God said: "you have cast down the mighty from their thrones and have exulted the lowly, you have filled the hungry with good things, and the rich you have sent away empty."