Thursday - Lent Time
1) Opening prayer
Lord our God,
many of us never had it so good
and so we have become smug and self-satisfied,
happy in our own little world.
God, may our ears remain open to your word
and our hearts to you
and to our brothers and sisters.
Do not allow us to forget you,
or to place our trust in ourselves.
Make us restless for you
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
2) Gospel Reading - Luke 16, 19-31
'There was a rich man who used to
dress in purple and fine linen and feast magnificently every day. And at his
gate there used to lie a poor man called Lazarus, covered with sores, who
longed to fill himself with what fell from the rich man's table. Even dogs came
and licked his sores.
Now it happened that the poor man
died and was carried away by the angels into Abraham's embrace. 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 embrace. 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." Abraham said, "My son,
remember that during your life you had your fill of good things, just as
Lazarus his fill of bad. 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 prevent
those who want to cross from our side to yours or from your side to ours."
'So he said, "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." Abraham said, "They have Moses and the
prophets, let them listen to them." The rich man replied, "Ah no,
father Abraham, 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."
Every time that Jesus has something important to communicate, he creates a
story and tells a parable. In this way, through the reflection on an invisible
reality, he leads those who listen to him to discover the invisible call of
God, who is present in life. A parable is made to make us think and reflect. For
this reason it is important to pay attention even to the smallest details. In
the parable in today’s Gospel there are three persons. The poor Lazarus, the
rich man without a name and Father Abraham. In the parable, Abraham represents
the thought of God. The rich man without a name represents the dominating ideology
of that time. Lazarus represents the silent cry of the poor of the time of
Jesus and of all times.
Luke 16, 19-21: The situation of the rich man and the poor man. The two
extremes of society. On the one side, aggressive richness, on the other the poor
man without resources, without rights, covered with wounds, without anybody to
accept him, to receive him, except the dogs which came to lick his wounds. What
separates both of them is the closed door of the house of the rich man. On the
part of the rich man, there is no acceptance nor pity concerning the problem of
the poor man at his door. But the poor man has a name and the rich man does
not. That is, the poor man has his name written in the book of life, not the
rich one. The poor man’s name is Lazarus. It means God helps. And
through the poor man, God helps the rich man who could have a name in the book
of life. But the rich man does not accept to be helped by the poor man, because
he keeps his door closed. This beginning of the parable which describes the
situation, is a faithful mirror of what was happening during the time of Jesus
and the time of Luke. It is the mirror of everything which is happening today
in the world!
Luke 16, 22: The change which reveals the hidden truth. The poor man
died and was carried away by the angels into Abraham’s embrace. The rich man
also died and was buried. In the parable the poor man dies before the rich one.
This is an advertisement for the rich. Up to the time when the poor man is
alive and is at the door, there is still the possibility of salvation for the
rich man. But after the poor man dies, the only instrument of salvation for the
rich man also dies. Now, the poor man is in Abraham’s embrace. The embrace
of Abraham is the source of life, from where the People of God is born, Lazarus,
the poor man, forms part of the People of Abraham, from which he was excluded,
when he was before the door of the rich man. The rich man who believes that he
is a son of Abraham does not go toward the embrace of Abraham! The introduction
of the parable ends here. Now its significance begins to be revealed, through
the three conversations between the rich man and Father Abraham.
Luke 16, 23-26: The first conversation. In the parable, Jesus opens a
window on the other side of life, the side of God. It is not a question of
Heaven. It is a question of life which only faith generates and which the rich
man who has no faith cannot perceive. It is only in the light of death that the
ideology of the empire disintegrates and appears for him what the true value of
life is. On the part of God, without the deceiving propaganda of the ideology,
things change. The rich man sees Lazarus in the embrace of Abraham and asks to
be helped in his suffering. The rich man discovers that Lazarus is his only
possible benefactor. But now, it is too late! The rich man without a name is
pious, because he recognizes Abraham and calls him Father Abraham
responds and calls him son. In reality this word of
Abraham is addressed to all the rich who are alive. In so far as they are
alive, they have the possibility to become sons and daughters of Abraham, if
they know how to open the door to Lazarus, the poor man, the only one who in
God’s name can help them. Salvation for the rich man does not consist in
Lazarus giving him a drop of fresh water to refresh his tongue, but rather,
that he, the rich man, open the closed door to the poor man so as fill the
great abyss that exists.
Luke 16, 27-29: The second conversation. The rich man insists: “Then,
Father, I beg you to send Lazarus to my father’s house, because I have five
brothers!” The rich man does not want his brothers to end in the same place of
suffering. Lazarus, the poor man, is the only true intermediary between God and
the rich. He is the only one, because it is only to the poor that the rich have
to return what they had and, thus, re-establish the justice which has been
damaged! The rich man is worried for his brothers, but was never concerned
about the poor! Abraham’s response is clear: “They have Moses and the Prophets;
let them listen to them!” They have the Bible! The rich man had the Bible. He
knew it by heart. But he was never aware of the fact that the Bible had
something to do with the poor. The key which the rich man has in order to be
able to understand the Bible is the poor man sitting at his door!
Luke 16, 30-31: The third conversation. “No, Abraham, but if someone
from the dead goes to them, they will repent!” The rich man recognizes that he
is wrong, he has committed an error, because he speaks of repenting,
something which he never heard during his life. He wants a miracle, a
resurrection! But this type of resurrection does not exist. The only
resurrection is that of Jesus. Jesus, risen from the dead comes to us in the
person of the poor, of those who have no rights, of those who have no land, of
those who have no food, of those who have no house, of those who have no
health. In his final response, Abraham is clear and convincing, forceful: “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!” The conversation ends
this way! This is the end of the parable!
The key to understand the sense of the Bible is the poor Lazarus, sitting
before the door! God presents himself in the person of the poor, sitting at our
door, to help us cover the enormous abyss which the rich have created. Lazarus
is also Jesus, the poor and servant Messiah, who was not accepted, but whose
death changed all things radically. And everything changes in the light of the
death of the poor. The place of torment, of torture is the situation of the
person without God. Even if the rich man thinks that he has religion and faith,
in fact, he is not with God because he does not open the door to the poor, as Zacchaeus
did. (Lk 19, 1-10).
4) Personal questions
How do we treat the poor? Do they have a name for us? In the attitude that I
have before them, am I like Lazarus or like the rich man?
When the poor enter in contact with us, do they perceive something different? Do
they perceive the Good News? And I, to which side do I tend, toward the miracle
or toward God’s Word?
5) Concluding Prayer
How blessed is anyone who rejects
the advice of the wicked
and does not take a stand in the
path that sinners tread,
nor a seat in company with cynics,
but who delights in the law of
and murmurs his law day and night.