my miscellany

Pentecost 16, 2022 — 25 Sep 22

Pentecost 16, 2022

JESUS MAFA. The Rich Man and Lazarus, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. https://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=48267 [retrieved September 26, 2022]. Original source: http://www.librairie-emmanuel.fr (contact page: https://www.librairie-emmanuel.fr/contact).

RCL Year C, Proper 21 (Alternate Readings)
Amos 6:1a and 4-7, Psalm 146, I Timothy 6:6-19, Saint Luke 16:19-31

In the Sermon on the Plain in Saint Luke’s Gospel, Jesus declares, “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.”[1] That preachment perfectly expresses the theme of today’s Gospel, which is the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.

You remember that Lazarus, covered in sores, lies at the Rich Man’s gate, longing to satisfy his hunger with what falls from the Rich Man’s table. The Rich Man dresses in purple and fine linen, and feasts sumptuously every day. After death, their fortunes are reversed. The Rich Man is tormented in Hades while Lazarus in heaven lies close to Abraham’s bosom. The one who enjoyed good things in life is now tormented, and the one who had only evil things now has consolation. The reversal is as extreme as were the differences in their earthly conditions.

The reversal after death clearly expresses Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain, but he has more than that to say in the parable.

The Rich Man arrogantly asks that Lazarus be sent to warn his brothers from committing the same errors that he has made. Abraham, the great patriarch, steps in and replies that Moses and the prophets provide sufficient warning. The Rich Man argues that someone returning from the dead will trigger their repentance. But Abraham has the last word, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”[2]

Jesus thus declares through Abraham in the parable that the Pharisees have not been convinced by Moses and the Prophets, and they will not be convinced by his resurrection either. But will we?

By contrast, here we are professing to believe in God principally because of the resurrection, and we look over Jesus’ shoulder to Moses and the Prophets because Jesus was raised from the dead. If we believe in the resurrection, and if we credit Moses and the Prophets because they prepared the resurrection, should not we repent more quickly than the Pharisees? Should we not seek and serve Lazarus as if our salvation hangs upon changing our lives in ways the Rich Man never considered? The reversal the Rich Man endured and the enduring obliviousness of the Pharisees, do they not compel us to come closer to God’s ways than they?

Our Lady sings of such a reversal, “He hath put down the mighty from their seat, * and hath exalted the humble and meek.”[3] This reversal we can endure only if we are on the right side. We can endure it only if we are on God’s side, if we are close to God. May we never be a party to “the hope of the poor” being “taken away.”[4] My advice to you is to seek Lazarus in everyone you meet. And to seek within yourself the Rich Man who has repented.

[1] Saint Luke 6:24.

[2] Saint Luke 16:31.

[3] Saint Luke 1:52.

[4] The BCP (1979), Suffrages A, pages 55, 68, 98, and 122.

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