This Sunday’s Gospel sees Jesus pose to the Pharisees another challenging scenario. This time his parable speaks of two men: a poor man (Lazarus) and a rich man, each knowing the other. The story hinges on the death of both of them but find themselves in an unfamiliar (at least then) place. The favored place, Abraham’s bosom, goes to Lazarus the poor man, not to the rich man. The rich man sees Lazarus with Abraham and, recognizing his authority, ignores Lazarus and addresses Abraham. He firsts asks for comfort in the way of water (a symbol of Jesus?). Accepting the difficult situation – that he could not go to him, nor could he cross to them – he asks for Lazarus to be sent to his family so that they may repent and avoid his current unpleasantness. Abraham rightfully, highlights the fact of a lack of authority in Lazarus being sent, authority that is found in Moses and the prophets: authority that the rich man saw in Abraham.
We get from here a clear-ish look at the afterlife. Clear-ish because while we clearly see allusions to heaven and hell neither is individually or collectively exhaustive – there is more to the afterlife than this. But the message here is a little hidden. Clearly the favored place to be, the bosom of Abraham, is a desirable place to be, but how does one get there? Does one need to be poor? Have your wounds licked by dogs? Or is it something’s else. The message here is that success in this life does not guarantee a favored place in the hereafter. So much for the “health-and-wealth” gospel. Another point of interest, particularly for Catholic apologetics, this passage more than a couple of times calls Abraham father. Therefore it becomes a marquee reference to refute those who challenge the Catholic practice of calling priests father when Mat 23:9 says call no man father for you have only one father in heaven. More need to be said about this, perhaps some other time, but remember that scripture needs to be read in the context of the church. Also there is nothing in scripture that disagrees with the church, but again perhaps some other time.
So how are we to live out today what Jesus is trying to teach us? Well, what we do today effects our eternal salvation. This much is clear. Whatever our state in life – rich or poor – there are no guarantees. Persevere in trials. Work for heavenly reward. Submit to divine authority. And, as my uncle puts it, you’re a long time dead, so think.
How else might you live out Jesus’ message this week?