Saint Thomas of Canterbury, Bolton

Stay with us, Lord, on our journey

Cycle C

Twenty Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

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Luke 16.19-31

"There was a rich man … "

In last week’s Gospel reading, Jesus reminded us that we will be held accountable for our use of the gifts that have been entrusted to us, and he insisted that no one can be the slave both of God and of money. The Pharisees, who loved money, jeered at him, so he told them today’s story about an unnamed Rich Man and a poor man called Lazarus. The rich man is described in sumptuous terms which contrast starkly with the miserable state of Lazarus. In passing, it is worth noting that there is no implied criticism of the rich man simply for being rich, or for dressing elegantly and eating well.

Nonetheless, we can already tell that something is going to go wrong. Once again we see how Jesus turns things upside down: Lazarus is transported to “Abraham’s bosom”, while the rich man suffers the torment of hell. And even there his self-centred attitude of superiority can still be seen as he asks Abraham to “send” Lazarus to help him. But Lazarus is not to be sent to him. Instead he gets a reminder from Abraham that “during your life good things came your way just as bad things came the way of Lazarus”, the poor man who lay at your gate, longing simply for the scraps that fell from your table. Yet what was your response to his need? All the attention he got came from the dogs that licked his sores.

Again the rich man asked Abraham to “send” Lazarus, this time to warn his brothers. And again Lazarus is not to be sent, for the brothers have Moses and the prophets, all the teachings of the Scriptures to guide them. If they will not listen to these, argues Abraham, would they listen “even if someone should rise from the dead”? That is the challenge for us: how well do we listen even to the One who has risen from the dead?