Jesus told the parable in Luke 16, 19-31 (the Rich Man and Lazarus) to call to task the Pharisees and other leaders of the people for their love of money and lack of mercy for the poor. He also used the parable to correct three Jewish misconceptions held and taught in His day: 1) Material prosperity in this life is God’s reward for moral uprightness, while poverty and illness are God’s punishment for sins. Hence, there is no need to help the poor and the sick for they have been cursed by God. 2) Since wealth is a sign of God’s blessing, the best way of thanking God is to enjoy it by leading a life of luxury and self-indulgence in dress, eating, and drinking, of course, after giving God His portion as tithe. 3) The parable also addresses the ancient and false doctrine which denied the soul’s survival after death, and, so, the consequent retribution which our deeds in this life will receive in the next. Jesus challenged these misconceptions through this parable and condemned the rich who ignore the poor they encounter.
Are these three misconceptions still present in our own day? Yes, of course! This parable and all the others which Jesus told were never meant to be “quaint stories from of old.” They also offer an invitation to each one of us, here in our own day, to be conscious of what prosperity is really all about, what the suffering of those around us really means, and how we can share our blessings more generously.
Let us pray. “Grant us, Lord our God, a vision of your world – as your love would have it: a world where the weak are protected, and none go hungry or poor; a world where the riches of creation are shared, and everyone can enjoy them; a world where different races and cultures live in harmony and mutual respect; and a world where peace is built with justice – and justice is guided by love. Give us the inspiration and courage to build y0ur world, through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
The Church today celebrates “World Day of Prayer and Action for Refugees and Migrants.” Pope Francis’ prayer for the occasion: “Lord, make us bearers of hope, so that where there is darkness, your light may shine, and where there is discouragement, confidence in the future may be reborn. Lord, make us instruments of your justice, so that where there is exclusion, fraternity may flourish, and where there is greed, a spirit of sharing may grow. Lord, make us builders of your Kingdom, together with migrants and refugees and with all who dwell on the peripheries. Lord, let us learn how beautiful it is to live together as brothers and sisters. Amen.”