The Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Luke 16:19-31

The Rich Man and Lazarus

Here is a parable of a truly pitiful man, but also of terrible divine retribution.  Continuing with his teaching on handling wealth, Jesus tells a parable of a rich man who gorged himself with dainties everyday while a poor, wretched man named, Lazarus, lay at his gate, only hoping to eat scraps from the rich man’s table.  His plight is so wretched, he is covered with sores, perhaps from lack of hygiene, and dogs come to lick them.  I am told by the notes in my Bible that these dogs would not have been household pets but dangerous scavengers and considered unclean.  The rich man cares nothing for Lazarus and spends his wealth only on himself.

They die.  Lazarus is now taken to Paradise and the rich man is in Hades.  The rich man pleads with Father Abraham that he might send Lazarus to wet his finger to cool his tongue.  The response of Abraham is just: “Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.”  Now please read this in the light of the entire Bible: Lazarus goes to Paradise because he was faithful; the rich man to Hades because he was wicked.  Their stations in life did not earn them their eternal reward, but how they lived their stations.  The (former) rich man then pleads with Abraham to send Lazarus to visit his brothers to warn them of this “place of torment.”  Again, do not get caught up in the details of a parable.  In eternity, our souls are fixed according to their natures: the righteous shall be sinless and growing in holiness while the wicked shall remain so only growing utterly wicked.  The rich man would have no more regard for his brothers in Hades than he did for Lazarus on earth.  Anyway, Abraham answers that his brothers have “Moses and the Prophets.”  The rich man thinks that if one came back from the dead, they would then believe.  Abraham responds, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.”  This is, of course, a cryptic remark about the unbelief that would surround our Lord’s resurrection.

Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,” and “If you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me” (John 5:39, 46).  The Old Testament bears witness to Jesus Christ (Luke 24:25-27).  And as for this parable, Christ lay outside the rich man’s gate.  The Scriptures warned the rich man to care for him.  The rich man wouldn’t listen.  There are still poor Christ’s lying around (Matthew 25:31-46).  Are we listening?

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