Daily Reflection
September 26th, 2004
Larry Gillick, S.J.
Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.

We are invited to an uncomfortable liturgical listening. At least for those of us who live in the lands of plenty, these readings make us want to turn the channel. For those who have less of this world’s material blessings there is some sense of comfort. 

We face the fact that there are poor Lazaruses lying right outside our doors. Their poverties might be less visible than others. We necessarily have to get up off our easy chairs and lazy-persons couches to open our prevent-defensed doors and eyes and that is a grace we are not sure we really want to receive.  

Fear of torment in the after-life can be a motive, but we are invited through the Eucharistic sharing to move from fear to faith, from indoors to out.  We pray not to turn away from the parable, its meaning and what it asks of us as members of Christ’s Body. 

For the second week we hear from the Prophet Amos saying the hard truths to the wealthy and so falsely secure of Israel. The words we hear are a description of the “fat life” of the “fat cats” of Israel. They eat the finest, drink the most, and enjoy their ease. With all this, they find their security not in the God of their pasts, but the amount of their present. As a result of their absorbing unconcern for the well being of their nation, they will be the first to go into exile.

Amos has been warning them with dreams and divine foretellings, but they were self-stuffed and deafened to God’s call by the din of their self-singing. Independent living results in isolating exclusion.

We hear in the Gospel a continuation of Jesus’ speaking to his disciples, but more directly to the always-attentive Pharisees. Last week’s Gospel related the story concerning the conniving steward who used his position to win favor with those who would have to help him when he would get fired. The Pharisees are slowly getting the picture that Jesus sees them as having misused their position and have begun to accumulate their power through possessions and positions. So we hear a parable which is direct, simple and unmistakable. It is to catch the attention of the Pharisees’ comfortability and our own.

A very rich man feasted “sumptuously” every day. The Greek word used by Luke here for this feasting is the same as Luke used when the Prodigal Son returned and his father ordered a feast. So this very special feast was had by this “rich man” every day. He was dressed in the finest colors of royalty. Contrasted with this man was a very poor man named Lazarus who lay at the door of the rich man every day. He was dressed in sores and the dogs licked his wounds. He would be in a similar condition as the Prodigal Son sitting with the swine.

The Pharisees hear this and know Jesus is speaking of how richly they feast on the tributes paid by their religious adherents. The parable intensifies the warnings Jesus has been offering them. Lazarus dies and is taken to sit on the lap of Abraham. The unnamed-rich man dies and is removed to a place of great torment, flames and thirst. He begs Abraham whom he sees way “up there” to send Lazarus down with a drip-drop of water. This request is denied. So the tormented fellow begs to have Lazarus go and warn his brothers to repent. This does sound like a graceful gesture and request. The negative response by Abraham is devastating.

“Moses and the prophets” have spoken to all of Israel about the demands of justice, charity, and community. The rich man’s brothers haven’t listened to them. Then Luke puts a fine point on this parable.

The rich man asks to have at least one person who has died to rise and tell everybody about the truth of human misuse of wealth and material goods. Abraham concludes the long-distance conversation by affirming that if people have not listened to and lived by the teachings of Moses and the Prophets, they would surely not listen to even someone who would rise from the dead. This is obviously a reference to Jesus who would rise, but would not convert all human hearts, especially those who find their security in their possessions.

So Lazarus was literally a doormat over which Mr. Gotitall tripped on his way to eternity. It has been said many times that the only things we can take with us into the after life are those things we have shared or given away. The rich have much and so have many opportunities to prepare for the long-life. Mr. Gotitall loved this temporary life and squeezed it tightly like the grapes of his fine wines. He adorned his fragile body with the confinery of opulence. He was unable to move out, extend his hands, because he was too tight. Tight, because he was bound up with things and himself and so what he got in the end was what he wanted, just himself.

My father was moderately wealthy and he was often heard to say that he came into this world broke and intended to leave it in a similar condition. By this he meant that he wanted to give away, share, entrust, bless or in any other way, give thanks to the Giver, by imitating that same generosity. We are invited to loosen our grip on the gifts we have received lest we begin to think they all are really our own. There remain those who lie outside our doors and they remain invitations to share this-life’s goods so that we will receive the next-life’s betters.

“O Lord, remember the words you spoke to me, your servant,
 which made me live in hope and consoled me when I was downcast.”

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