Wellspring of the Gospel


Year C: 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Gospel: Luke 16: 19-31

Todayís Gospel follows on from last weekís Gospel on peopleís attitude to money and possessions. It is sometimes called the story of Dives (the rich man) and Lazarus.

 Jesus sets the scene - one that is very easy to imagine. Inside the beautiful house, a rich man sits to eat. Everything is comfortable and elegant . Outside by the gates is a poor man - covered in sores and cold and hungry.

In time, both men die and find their positions completely reversed - the poor man now finds himself safe in heaven in the arms of Abraham - the rich man in hell.

Jesus was telling this story to the Pharisees who believed in life after death (the Saducees didnít). They also saw themselves as children of Abraham - so, for them, this would have been an uncomfortable distinction. They believed that prosperity was a sign of Godís blessing - He had promised prosperity to Abraham and his successors. Yet, here was the rich man cast off from Abraham and the family of God. The poor man - who, they believed would have been poor because he didnít have Godís favour - is the one whom Abraham claims as one of his descendants.  This turns things upside down - as Jesus so often did.

Then Jesus looks at the plight of the rich man. All the good things he enjoyed in life have been taken from him in death. He begs for pity - simply for a drop of water - but the gulf between the two kingdoms is too great.

So, aware that he cannot now be saved, he asks that warnings are given to those who are still living so that they can be spared what he is going through. And Abraham points out that the teaching on how to deal with money and with the poor has been passed on from generation to generation - right back to Moses. The message was there - and Dives had not heeded it - and neither would his brothers.

Then the punchline as far as Christians are concerned.

Dives says that they would listen if someone came back from the dead to tell them - but Abraham says that even that would not convince them.

The Gospels were, of course, written long after Jesus had died and risen from the dead. The early  Christians must have wondered why people did not see the truth of Jesusí teaching. Here, Luke has Jesus explaining the simple fact - even the words of someone who has risen from the dead will fall on deaf ears if those listening donít want to hear!

What does it mean for me?


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