Luke 16:19-31 Jesus said, "There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man's table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, `Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.' But Abraham said, `Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.' He said, `Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father's house-- for I have five brothers-- that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.' Abraham replied, `They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.' He said, `No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' He said to him, `If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'"
Reflection Can you hear Abraham calling to the rich man, “ You spent your life and put your faith in sumptuous feasts and fine apparel. You flaunted your privilege and stepped over a man starving at your door. You never even looked at him. You are a Jew, a religious man, you knew better. You knew the words of the prophets, and you did not listen. But when things got really bad you did not hesitate to call me your father... Abraham. How dare you presume to be favored in God’s family. On the balance sheet of life you chose death because you did not “take hold of the eternal life....a life that really is life.” You did not listen to the prophets. You did not listen to the word of God.”
Before I go on I must say this, I do not believe Jesus’ parable is about what happens after we are dead. I believe Jesus is telling us what is important right now, while we are alive. In this parable even though we may be rich we don’t identify with the unnamed man in purple because he is dead. He made his choices and on the balance sheet of life he came up short. Neither do we identify with Lazarus, though surely each one of us has our share of suffering. Still, we are neither destitute nor are we dead. I believe in this story we are the five brothers. And, if we would listen we might be convinced to “take hold of the eternal life, the life that really is life.”
Like the five brothers, we have Moses and the prophets. We also have a voice from heaven instructing us...listen to Jesus, the prophet of prophets. You recall the dramatic mountaintop moment earlier in Luke’s gospel when “a voice came out of the cloud saying (to Jesus’ disciples), “This in my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”” (Luke 9.35) Listen to him.
Are you getting the message? We are supposed to listen. So, what is Jesus saying? Jesus spends much time in Luke’s gospel talking about possessions and money. I do not believe he is saying money or possesions are evil. They are neutral. Rather, evil is when we allow money or possessions to own us and make us blind to the needs and rights of others. Evil is when the power, privilege and pride associated with money and possessions begins to possess us and prevent us from being the living revelation of God’s preferential care for the poor and the suffering.
The bottom line; if we call Abraham our father and claim to be God’s people we need to listen.
We need to listen to the prophets and adjust our lives to bridge the ever widening gap between the rich and the poor. We need to step out of our well meaning and comfortable ruts and adjust the balance sheets of our lives. We need to ask ourselves how will we give a little more of our selves away for the benefit of strangers today? This is the way to be truly rich; to “take hold of the eternal life, life that really is life.” This is the way to be God’s people.
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