What struck you from today’s Gospel reading? Here’s my take on it, based on my scribbles at mass on a piece of cardboard I found in the pew.
On the 26th Sunday in ordinary time, we read the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Lk 16:19.).
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.’Abraham replied, ‘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.’”
The important question is why the rich man was condemned. At a glance, one might suspect because of his richness -He is condemned while Lazarus (short for Eleazar, “the one who is helped by God”) goes to the Bosom of Abraham.
Others could say he was condemned because he ignored Lazarus at his doorstep. But, was that the reason?
Doing a quick narrative analysis of the pericope during mass, I realized how accurate the antithetical parallel between the two actors is.
The interlocution that follows, not between the rich man and Lazarus, but rather between the rich man and Abraham, gives us the key to answer the question. If you paid attention to the Gospel, Abraham never reproaches the rich man for not tending to Lazarus. The rich man asks Abraham to send Lazarus to his alive brothers so they don’t get condemned as well. But Abraham answers that if they *don’t listen to Moses and the prophets* they won’t believe even if they see a man rising from the dead.
When Jesus refers to “Moses and the prophets” (in this case he does so through the words of Abraham to the rich man), he is using the common way of the Jews to refer to the Torah (we call it Pentateuch, which they attributed his writing to Moses) and to the Nebiim (The prophetic books). So he is not referring to Moses the liberator and to the prophets themselves, but rather to Scripture.
Hence, Abraham is telling the rich man that if his rich brothers “Don’t listen to Scripture”, in other words “If they don’t listen to God (who spoke through Scripture, through Moses (Torah) and the prophets (Nebiim)), they won’t believe even if they see a dead man resurrecting”.
So why was the rich man condemned in the first place?
Sending Lazarus to his rich brothers won’t save them. After all, the rich man had Lazarus sitting at his doorstep when both were alive and that didn’t save him. What condemned him in the first place is that like his rich brothers, *he did not listen to Moses and the prophets* which means that he didn’t listen to God (who spoke through Scripture).
An important lesson
And that is an important lesson to each of us: we can have a Lazarus next to us in our life, but if we ignore the Sacred Scripture, if we don’t listen to God, we won’t be saved either. Even if we see a man rising from the dead.
Be passionate about our faith!
© Mauricio I. Pérez. All rights reserved.