Jesus said to the Pharisees, "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.'"
The theme of today’s Gospel is the use and abuse of things created, and the parable uses wealth as an example. It points out the danger of inordinate attachment to wealth. The parable does not assign any moral value to wealth itself. Nor it suggests that the rich man give up his wealth. However, it does hint that the rich man should be simple in his living style because at the beginning of the Gospel, we note that the rich man was dressed in purple and fine linen.
In ancient time, various species of shells were used to make purple dye. It was a very costly dye because of the materials and labour process involved. Fine linen mainly came from Egypt and was mainly used by nobles and kings in ancient Middle East. The rich man in today’s Gospel not only was dressed in purple and fine linen, but also feasted sumptuously every day. It may be excusable to feast sumptuously occasionally, but this rich man did it every day!
While this rich man enjoyed a rich living every day, we are told that right outside the gate of his house 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. However, this rich man did not show any sympathy to the poor man, not even giving him some of the leftover food.
Prophet Amos, in today’s first reading, laments the wealthy who care nothing for the poor. He also warns that the rich shall now be the first to go into exile, and the revelry of the loungers shall pass away. In today’s language, it is read as that injustice infringes the right of the poor and his livelihood. Such infringement will lead to war. And war ignores and destroys life. People become cruel because of wars.
Infringing the right of others will be punished by God, although it may escape the trial of this world, because “I know that the Lord maintains the cause of the needy, and executes justice for the poor. Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name; the upright shall live in your presence (Psalm 140:12-13).”
The Gospel parable is divided into two scenes. The first one is in this world and the second in the next world. In the second scene, between the rich man and Lazarus is a great chasm that no one can cross from either side. Having discovered that it was too late that there was anything that could be done to him, the rich man begged Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his five brothers, so that they would not also come into the place of torment. Abraham replied that they have Moses and the prophets and they should listen to them. This means that we should listen to the Word and act accordingly.
However, the rich man still insisted that if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent. It is like some of us who always demand a miracle before heeding God’s will. Jesus asks us, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind (Matthew 22.37).” Amen.