Gospel for Sunday, September 25 Luke 16: 19-31
XXVI Sunday C
19There was a rich man who dressed in purple and fine linen and feasted lavishly every day. 20A beggar named Lazarus was lying at his door, covered with sores, 21eager to feed himself with what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came to lick his sores. 22One day the poor man died and was carried by angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. 23Being in hell among torments, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham from afar and Lazarus next to him. 24Then shouting he said: Father Abraham, have mercy on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in the water and wet my tongue, because this flame tortures me. 25But Abraham replied: Son, remember that you received your good things during your life, and Lazarus likewise his bad things; but now he is consoled and you are in the midst of torment. 26Furthermore, a great gulf has been established between us and you: those who want to cross from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross from there to us. 27And he replied: Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house, 28because I have five brothers. Warn them, so that they do not also come to this place of torment. 29But Abraham replied: They have Moses and the Prophets; listen to them. 30And he: No, Father Abraham, but if someone from the dead comes to them, they will repent. 31Abraham replied: If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.
Luke 16: 19-31
Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Misericordie, I am Carlo Miglietta, doctor, biblical scholar, layman, husband, father and grandfather (www.buonabibbiaatutti.it).
Also today I share with you a short meditation thought on the Gospel, with special reference to the theme of mercy.
Jesus takes up the “Woe!” prophetic (Am 5,18; 6,1-7; Mi 2,1-5; Is 5,5-24) against the rich: “Woe to you, rich people, for you already have your consolation. Woe to you who are full, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will be afflicted and weep” (Luke 6:24-25).
Jesus considers the rich as excluded from the Kingdom for the sole fact of possessing goods: the parable of the rich man and the poor Lazarus, whose name means: “God is my help” (Lk 16,19-31), is disconcerting.
First of all, in this parable Jesus places the rich man in hell only because of the abundance of his goods, and Lazarus “in Abraham’s bosom” only because he is poor on earth, regardless of their internal dispositions. Indeed, the rich man even seems… a pious man, who in infernal torments is concerned about the salvation of his brothers, and who implores for them a clearer revelation on the use of riches. But he is damned because he is rich: this scandalized Jerome to such an extent that in the Vulgate he allowed himself to independently add “but no one gave him any” to the verse that describes Lazarus’ desire to participate in the rich man’s goods (Lk 16.21), just to attribute at least the rich man is to blame for his insensitivity to the poor. But the text is much harsher, and testifies to the retaliation of an objective situation: “Abraham replied (to the rich man): «Son, remember that you received your goods during your life and Lazarus likewise his evils; but now he is comforted and you are in torment” (Lk 16:25).
James, “brother of the Lord” (Gal 1.19), will take up this line of Jesus with a very harsh position: “And now to you, you rich people: weep and cry out for the misfortunes that are upon you! Your riches have decayed, your clothes have been eaten by moths, your gold and your silver are consumed by rust, their rust will stand up as a testimony against you and will devour your flesh like fire. You have stored up treasures for the last days…! You reveled on the earth and were satisfied with pleasures, you were fattened for the day of slaughter” (Jas 5:1-5). “There is a close correspondence between the letter of James and the preaching of Jesus… For James as for Jesus, the poor are the heirs of the kingdom of God… Both structure their thoughts according to the humiliation-exaltation scheme of poor” (F. Mussner). “The speech falls within the contrasting scheme of the poor-rich of the Psalms, where the poor is reassured and confirmed in his choice of faithfulness with the announcement of the certain ruin of the rich. In this case the invitation to “glory oneself” would sound like subtle irony… An interpretation that tends to recover the rich man proposes to see in the “humiliation” the downgrading suffered with Christian conversion, which also entailed a boycott for the rich man economical from his colleagues; others see in the “exaltation” of the poor and the humiliation of the rich the effect of the community of goods implemented in the first Christian communities of Judea, which made socioeconomic disparities disappear” (R. Fabris).
Cardinal Tettamanzi, faced with the question of how God can tolerate such inequality among men, wrote that “the parable (editor’s note: of the rich man and the poor Lazarus) answers: justice will have the last word, but after death in afterlife, when the situation of the rich man and the beggar will be literally reversed compared to the earthly one… Lazarus is on the conscience of each of us. In fact, if we think about it, we are all depicted in the rich man whenever we do not let fall from our table what is superfluous for us, while it could be a reason for living for poor Lazarus” (D. Tettamanzi).
“Jesus’ message is therefore clear, and is supported by the entire New Testament. In reality, faced with the inequality that exists between rich and poor, those who find themselves in a situation of danger before the judgment of God are the rich” (J. de S. Ana). Therefore “wealth does not mean a special election on the part of God, but, on the contrary, the greatest danger for the “salvation of the soul”” (F. Mussner). Leo XIII already wrote this in “Rerum novarum” (1891): “The fortunate are therefore admonished…; the rich must tremble, thinking of the threats of Jesus Christ…; one day they will have to give a very rigorous account to God the judge for the use of their goods” (Rerum novarum, nn. 111-113).
Paul writes to Timothy: “Those who want to become rich fall into temptation, into a snare and into many senseless and fatal desires, which drown men in ruin and perdition. In fact, the attachment to money is the root of all evil” (1 Tim 6,6-11).
Saint Basil notes, not without irony, that the rich man is “miserable due to abundance, miserable because of the goods present, even more miserable because of the goods he expects. His fields do not give him income, but only bring him groans. They do not give him abundant fruits, but worries, pains and terrible anguish… Above these human things there are other things much greater and more important. Here they are: for you God came to live among us (Jn 1.14), distributed the gifts of the Holy Spirit (Heb 2.4), annihilated death (1 Cor 15.12), gave precepts to reach perfection (Mt 19,17.21), he has prepared the kingdom of heaven (Mt 25,34), he will deliver the crown of justice (2 Tim 4,8) to those who have not shirked the practice of virtues”.
But the parabolic tale does not stop here. According to some apocalyptic texts, the vision of the happiness of the righteous is a further torment for sinners, but there is still the possibility of communication between the good and the bad. The rich man would like his five brothers to be warned of his situation with an apparition of the deceased Lazarus: but Abraham recalls that the illicit nature of riches must already be clearly deduced from the Scriptures (“Moses and the prophets”: Luke 16.31): they have the Bible, nothing else is needed. To avoid ending up in Hades (16.23: Luke uses the Greek term, which means: place where one cannot see: alpha privative + verb to see), Scripture is enough.
Happy Mercy to all!
Anyone who would like to read a more complete exegesis of the text, or some insights, please ask me at email@example.com.