The lesson in the story of the rich man and Lazarus
Reflections on the readings for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time (September 29, 2019): AM 6:1,4-7; PS 146:7,8-9,9-10; 1 TM 6:11-16; LK 16:19-31
MISSIO offers “Preaching Mission,” as a homily help, providing connections to mission from the readings of Sundays, Feast Days and Holy Days.
In the Gospel for today, Jesus addresses the Pharisees who take their religious obligations seriously, yet often neglect the spirit of love and service that God desires from His people.
In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, we meet one man who has everything the world values: wealth, possessions and a contented life; and a poor man who has no home or money, and is sick and hungry. When the two die, their positions are reversed. Lazarus rests on the bosom of Abraham in heaven while the other man undergoes torment in the netherworld. And still, the formerly rich man understands nothing. He expects Lazarus to do his bidding and relieve his thirst. Abraham tells him that is impossible. Again, that man wants Lazarus to warn his brothers what awaits them. When Abraham again refuses because they have been taught what is right and wrong, he tries yet again. “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’” (Luke 16:30-31).
Surely the Pharisees were not happy to hear this parable. After all, it was commonly believed that prosperity was a sign of God’s blessing. And if someone suffered from poverty, sickness or other misfortune, they probably brought it on themselves. Jesus wanted them – and all who heard Him – to grasp that whatever our situation in life, we are meant to do good and help others. The rich man was not condemned because of his wealth, but because he did not know how to use it in God’s service. Moreover, he saw this poor man every day and even knew his name, yet his anguish meant nothing to him. God’s word was contained in the Ten Commandments and the messages of the prophets, but had no real meaning for him. He took so much for granted. That is still true today for many of us. We all have opportunities to help others by offering a kind word, sharing time and attention, or providing material assistance. Each of us is called to serve our Lord by loving one another as we follow our Savior.