Homily of Archbishop Pizzaballa for World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2019

Published: September 24 Tue, 2019

Homily of Archbishop Pizzaballa for World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2019 Available in the following languages:


Sunday XXVI for annum, C (Am 6, 1.4-7; 1Tm 6, 11-16; Lk 16, 19-31)


Today’s Gospel says a lot about the day we celebrate and for which we are gathered here to pray and intercede.

There are two moments, two scenes. The first part is on this earth: the rich man rejoices in his wealth, while the poor man lives of the crumbs that fall from his table. The rich man has no name, while the poor man is called Lazarus. These details in the Gospel are always important and indicative.

The second part of the Gospel takes place afterlife. Lazarus is in heaven, while the rich man is in hell. For the sake of brevity, we stop on this second scene.

The Gospel does not say that the rich man did not respect the law, that he broke the commandments, that he did harm to anyone. He simply says that every day he was feasting wastefully and that he was dressed in a opulent way.

When we live like this, at the door, surely, there is also a poor man who suffers.

Lazarus is at the door, but the rich man does not see him: the verb ” see” appears only in the second part of the parable, in the afterlife, while on earth, during his life, the rich man did not go beyond his front door, did not go beyond his well-being, the perimeter of his interests, his things, so his life (“every day” v. 19) was all in this little world of pleasures, satisfaction of needs: nothing other existed.

The rich man exchanged joy with pleasure, satisfying his needs. His sin was not the breaking of a law, but the failure to live up to a different joy, the one for which we are created, which is the joy of communion.

He couldn’t see Lazarus at his door. But how was it possible not to see him, if he was at his door? The quotation from Ezekiel comes to my mind: “Son of man, you live in the midst of a rebellious people, who have eyes to see and do not see, they have ears to hear and do not hear …” (12: 2). The rich man did not see him because he refused to see him. He didn’t want to grasp the reality that was in front of his eyes.

Wealth is a problem when it closes, when it becomes an absolute and prevents us from feeling part of a whole, from feeling like a branch of a vine.

The parable ends with the dialogue between the rich man and his father Abraham.

A conclusion that surprises us a little, because it does not bring an invitation to conversion, to care for the poor: no, it only says that the path of eternal life and joy is that of listening to the Scriptures.

Because listening is proper to the poor, to those who leave space within themselves to the other.

Listening is not a gesture, an action, but the style of a life lived open to the relationship.

Here all this says a lot about the lifestyle that is still required today.

We are witnessing a great debate all over the world on the question of migrants, of migrations of entire populations and we listen to many theories in favor of or against this or that, on how this phenomenon will evolve, on the fears it produces. We have listened and will listen to the relationship between topics as migration, identity, religion, culture and the fears of changes. Perhaps all this is necessary and will certainly have its usefulness.

But the Gospel does not enter into the merits of these discussions. It is not an academic theory.

It simply tells us that the Lazarus of all times, who lives at our door and who has only crumbs to live, cannot be unseen. We cannot ignore him, reject him. The theories on the phenomenon of migration and the other securities on which we base our decisions cannot justify the refusal to recognize the Lazarus of today.

We are Church, that is, a community of believers in Christ who made the Gospel his rule of life. If Lazarus knocks on our door, we cannot not to help, not to listen to him. The Gospel commands us.

Listening, means welcoming, making the situations and expectations of the other, one’s own.

At this moment, at the end of this difficult summer, I cannot but think of our local situations, of our Lazarus of this land.

I am thinking of the question of expulsions which involved many families this summer. Children and young people, born and raised here and who, years later, are forced to leave for a homeland they never knew and, in a way, have been forced to become migrants in what it is supposed to be their own Country.

I think of the many who live among us without any legal guarantee, with the risk to be forced to leave at any time, without means and without the possibility of procuring them, forced, like the Lazarus of the Gospel, to live on crumbs.

I think of those who live in humiliating working conditions, but above all to the many children who do not have the possibility of living like any other family, with a father and mother close together, a home and a peaceful life context; forced to leave for a foreign and not necessarily friendly Country, to be divided, due to lack of means, always on the move and with the fear of having to leave suddenly for an unpredictable future.

But this is also an opportunity to thank the many who work in the Israeli society to help and support in these situations the rights of the many Lazarus who live here; and to thank also those who respectfully receive them at home to work, welcoming them properly and with dignity.

And finally, I thank the Vicariate for migrants, Father Rafic Nahra and all the staff, religious and laity, who daily strive to be the voice and the arm of the Church in this pastoral field and to remind the whole Church of the Holy Land of her duty to make herself, here and now, the free and serene voice of the Gospel of Lazarus.


Jaffa, 09.21.2019