Everyone desires the reward of heaven for the dearly departed but sure and certain knowledge of their fate is not possible except in the case of canonization. That is where prayer comes in.
"Send Lazarus!" The rich man is able to communicate with Abraham from his place of torment so, as Pope Benedict has written, he is not in a place of permanent suffering, or hell. Hell is a final, full, and eternal place of separation from God, which precludes any possibility of communication with anyone who does not also share the state of eternal damnation.
"In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (cf. Lk 16:19-31), Jesus admonishes us through the image of a soul destroyed by arrogance and opulence, who has created an impassable chasm between himself and the poor man; the chasm of being trapped within material pleasures; the chasm of forgetting the other, of incapacity to love, which then becomes a burning and unquenchable thirst. We must note that in this parable Jesus is not referring to the final destiny after the Last Judgement, but is taking up a notion found, inter alia, in early Judaism, namely that of an intermediate state between death and resurrection, a state in which the final sentence is yet to be pronounced. " (Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi, 44)
And so the Holy Father proposes the story of the rich man and Lazarus as a call to hope for all of us who seek life abundantly but who also want answer, not only as to how to avoid suffering after this life, but to the mystery of the suffering we experience in this life.
For the full text of the homily for the 26th Sunday of the Year, please visit A Priest Life ((((..))))