11-18  Co-educational Catholic Senior School in Bath

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Gospel and Reflection,  Sunday 25 September 2022

Gospel: Luke 16: 19-31

Jesus said to the Pharisees: ‘There was a rich man who used to dress in purple and fine linen and feast magnificently every day. And at his gate there lay a poor man called Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to fill himself with the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even came and licked his sores. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried.

‘In his torment in Hades he looked up and saw Abraham a long way off with Lazarus in his bosom. So he cried out, “Father Abraham, pity 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.” “My son,” Abraham replied “remember that during your life good things came your way, just as bad things came the way of Lazarus. Now he is being comforted here while you are in agony. But that is not all: between us and you a great gulf has been fixed, to stop anyone, if he wanted to, crossing from our side to yours, and to stop any crossing from your side to ours.”

‘The rich man replied, “Father, I beg you then to send Lazarus to my father’s house, since I have five brothers, to give them warning so that they do not come to this place of torment too.” “They have Moses and the prophets,” said Abraham “let them listen to them.” “Ah no, father Abraham,” said the rich man “but if someone comes to them from the dead, they will repent.” Then Abraham said to him, “If they will not listen either to Moses or to the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead.”’

Gospel Reflection

This Sunday’s gospel is on a theme of poverty above riches. We have poverty and wealth, the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots,’ and they are given human faces in this parable about a beggar at the gate of a rich man who sits very comfortably, securely, and blindly in his splendid dwelling.

The beggar is the only character in any of Jesus’s parables who is given a personal name being called “Lazarus,” meaning “God has helped.” In our society, it is usually the poor who are nameless while the mass media screams at us the names and faces of the rich. This is an early hint of the Gospel paradox that Jesus goes on to proclaim in this parable.

The rich man has separated himself from ‘love’ and reaps the result, and the poor man receives the mercy of God upon death. The twist here is that the rich man realizes his mistake and, in an act of selflessness that is too late, asks to warn his family, so they might not come to his fate. But God points out, “If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.”

This may feel unfair. The rich man has repented, he regrets what he has done – why not allow him to warn his brothers? But Jesus reminds us that we have received warnings and road signs for life, the way we should live the way we should treat others, over and over through the prophets and through the ministry of Jesus himself. So what then is our excuse? It is worth giving time and thought to our actions and be sure we are happy with them just in case we should have to explain them!

How do we reconcile the fact that while some people live in extravagance, others are struggling to eat? It is worth pointing out that throughout the Gospels, Jesus does not necessarily condemn people who are wealthy simply for having wealth. Rather, Jesus denounces people who have an excess of resources that they are unwilling to share with others.

Sometimes we ignore problems, hoping they will go away. The rich man in Jesus’ story is a bit like this. He ignores the fact that Lazarus is hungry, even though Lazarus is right outside his gate. Perhaps if the rich man had crossed the chasm of social class that separated him and Lazarus in their earthly life, he would not have found himself staring across an even bigger chasm in eternity.

Reflective questions:

  • So let us each ask ourselves, so we ensure we are not living blindly: Who are the ones in need? Do you know their names? How do you respond?

  • Imagine you are standing before the gates of heaven and St Peter is there saying to you, “Did you listen to the gospel? Did you follow Jesus? It is all there, you know. You had all the materials to be successful.” If that happened, how do you think you will feel?

Prayer by Saint Teresa of Avila
Christ has no body but yours, no hands, no feet on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes with which he looks compassionately on this world.
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good.
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands.
Yours are the feet.
Yours are the eyes.
You are his body.
Yours are the eyes with which he looks compassionately on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

We pray for all our brothers and sisters around the world, that God our Father might increase our courage, generosity and strength to work for an end to poverty and injustice, and that he deepen our commitment so that the fruits of the harvest be more fairly shared. Amen