Gospel – Luke 16:19-31
Jesus said to the Pharisees:
“There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen
and dined sumptuously each day.
And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores,
who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps
that fell from the rich man’s table.
Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.
When the poor man died,
he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham.
The rich man also died and was buried,
and from the netherworld, where he was in torment,
he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off
and Lazarus at his side.
And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me.
Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue,
for I am suffering torment in these flames.’
‘My child, remember that you received
what was good during your lifetime
while Lazarus likewise received what was bad;
but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented.
Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established
to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go
from our side to yours or from your side to ours.’
He said, ‘Then I beg you, father,
send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers,
so that he may warn them,
lest they too come to this place of torment.’
But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets.
Let them listen to them.’
He said, ‘Oh no, father Abraham,
but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
Then Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets,
neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.'”
Reflection on the Gospel
Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God.
When I was a boy, the Sisters taught us the story of Lazarus and Dives. In those days, we did not actually read the Bible but rather had a textbook called Bible History. Later as an adult when I read the account in Luke, I looked for this man “Dives”, to no avail. Eventually, I realized that “dives” is the Latin for “rich man” — and, before Vatican II, “Catholic Bibles” tended to be translations from Jerome’s Latin vulgate — so suddenly there were two names in the story.
What is the Lord teaching in the parable? Like the prophet Amos centuries earlier, Jesus is warning people about the danger of complacency. The rich man is blithely indifferent to the poor man at his doorstep. But, the Lord’s parable sees more deeply into the problem. As Jesus tells the story, “Dives” is “blind” and so does not even “see” the man at his doorstep. Distracted by his own comfortable life, he misses what is right in front of him.
Clearly, the parable’s challenge is the Lord’s inviting us to “open our eyes” and so resist the temptation to indifference and complacency in the face of our sisters and brothers in need. It begins in one’s family — being on the alert for the young who need gentle mentoring or the elderly who might need no more than a little of our time and attention. But, our “eyes” have to see beyond the circle of those who are like us. We have a duty to share our time, our talent, our resources — and, maybe most of all, our power — with those whom the world would ignore.
Our “power”? It’s not enough to do individual or even communal acts of charity— which of course are Gospel-mandated — but we most also work for justice and peace; and critique the “system” that allows so many to be without in a land that has so much. Especially in a democracy like ours. That means involvement in politics. Yes, reasonable and indeed believing people can legitimately argue about the best “means” to resolve injustices, but there can be no ambiguity about the “end,” the “goal.” It is always to feed the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, to shelter the homeless, to challenge all forms of violence— and to do that as a society, a just peace society, one that cares for all of its members.
As we move from the Book to the Table, where the bread will be broken and the wine poured out, let us remember our own call to “self-empty” — that the Kingdom might come just a little more this day.
Joe Serano, O. Praem., received his doctorate of sacred theology from Catholic University and has served as Director of the Institute for Religion and Culture of Daylesford Abbey, Paoli, PA.
Saint John Baptist de La Salle – Pray for us.
Live, Jesus, in our hearts – Forever.