Amos 6:1a, 4-7; Ps 146:7, 8-9.9-10; Timothy 6:11-16, Luke 16:19-31 Sr. Christine Reinhart
In the gospel of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Luke describes the extremes of the two men. The rich man is very richly dressed in purple, fine linen and feasting every day magnificently, while the poor man is covered with sores, desperately hungry and lying at the rich man’s door. Only the dogs which were considered unclean gave him relief.After death we find the roles are reversed. Lazarus is found in the intimacy of Abraham while the rich man is in the torment of Hades, lost forever in suffering. The rich man makes two requests: for Lazarus to bring him relief and secondly to help his brothers so they will not suffer like him. At the end Luke summarizes by saying ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.’ We understand that Jesus is addressing this story to the Pharisees saying that if they will not listen to the law and the prophets they will not be convinced even if He would rise from the dead.
It’s quite a parable isn’t it? Having pondered and prayed about this passage, these are my reflections.
First: Is Jesus also addressing me, us today in this gospel? Does this story leave you feeling a bit uneasy? Do you identify with the rich man? We certainly have plenty of good food and eat well. In many ways we have been greatly blessed. Yes we do share with others by giving to charities and helping those who we see in need. Is God calling us to do more?
Second: Was the rich man even aware of the poor man at his door? Yet how could he miss him? Am I aware of the needs of those around me? Do I take time to notice and respond? Do we?
Third: Through the media we live in a global community with the poor of the world living at our door step. Because of this it is easy to become overwhelmed with the needs of the poor and actually feel powerless.
Fourth: Mother Teresa of Calcutta was very aware of the poor in the world and lived with them day in and day out. Rather than trying to respond to everyone’s need she responded to each person she met, that is she fed the poor one by one. It is very consoling to know that the call is to respond to one person at a time.
Fifth: Jesus said the rich man was able to listen to Moses and the prophets. What authorities has God given to us? Do I listen? Do we?
Sixth: Abraham himself was rich. Yet he was not the one in Hades. He was continuing in heaven the ministry of hospitality he had on earth by consoling Lazarus. Does this not tell us that the ministry God has given to us here on earth will continue in heaven? In heaven I doubt that we’ll be making candy but we will be praising God and interceding on behalf of the suffering and the poor of the world.
Seventh: Interestingly the rich man shows love for his five brothers when he is suffering in Hades. Does suffering help me to think of others? When I have a backache do I pray for others with a backache? When I am discouraged do I pray for those who are discouraged? Does an experience of hardship or rejection become an opportunity to thank God for letting me share in the cross of Christ?
Eighth: Could the rich man be me, us when we are too caught up with the distractions of life ignoring God’s call to spend more time in prayer? Are there days or times when you find yourself pulled from one thing or another longing for something deeper? Maybe we experience the dog licking our wounds when we accept the grace of solitude and inner quiet allowing ourselves to be still, to hear the voice of God calling us to greater intimacy with Him.
Ninth: Abraham was considered the Father of faith for the people of Israel. In one of my difficult times I stumbled upon the first line of today’s psalm which says “Blessed is he who keeps faith forever.”(Ps. 146.7) These words brought to mind the story of the three men in the fiery furnace. Do you remember what Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to King Nebuchadnezzar? They said: ‘if our God, the one we serve, is able to save us; from the burning fiery furnace and from your power, O king, he will save us; and even if he does not, then you must know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the statue you have erected.” Like Abraham and these three men, we are called to live by faith. May our lives be a source of encouragement and support to all those striving to live a life of faith?
St. Paul to Timothy in the second reading seems to pull many of these ideas together when he states: “But you, person of God, pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience and gentleness, compete well for the faith. Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called when you made the noble confession in the presence of many witnesses and keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Today I encourage you to spend extra time with Jesus allowing Him to speak to you heart through these readings. Blessed day!