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Dives and Lazarus

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The parable of Dives and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31 has been used especially as an illustration for social sin.  Indeed, it is a passage that should make Christians reflect on the consequences of a life that is uncaring and inattentive to the plight of the poor.  Recently, John Gummer of The Tablet made use of the story as a metaphor for the UN Earth Summit at Johannesburgh.  In the Philippines, the “scraps from the table” that Lazarus longed to eat becomes an inspiration for “Pondong Pinoy” a project that the Archdiocese of Manila is implementing for the poor of Metro Manila.
The parable is once more read during the Second Week of Lent (Thursday, Week II).  And there are two reasons for this:
1.  Lent is a time where we are invited to be trained in compassion.  One of the three practices of Lent “almsgiving” is not only about giving alms.  St. Augustine already associated it with “training in mercy and compassion”.  He points out that “elemosina” is derived from the Greek “eleew”  which means “to have mercy,” and therefore all acts that are associated with “mercy” like forgiveness and the showing of compassion (e.g. the example of the Good Samaritan) is “almsgiving.”  Dives is the example of one who has grown crass in his wealth.  He didn’t care about Lazarus dying of hunger at his doorstep.  When he was already in the fires of Hell, he still asks that Lazarus confort him with a wet finger.  It is not for nothing that the Lord calls his disciples and tells them to “sell everything you have, give it to the poor and come follow me.”  Wealth and riches can suffocate one’s capacity for compassion.
2.  A note in the parable makes its message tied up with Easter:

“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ ”

Dives asked Abraham to send Lazarus to his father’s house so that his brothers can be warned about what had happened to him.  Abraham told him that Moses and the Prophets –the whole Old Testament — were enough.  If one does not believe in Scriptures, one will not believe even One Who Has Risen From The Dead.  The allussion here is of course to the Risen Lord.  At the basis of this apparently secondary reference to Easter is the fact that with the Resurrection,  all that the Prophets have said about justice and the poor are validated  in a new way under the reign of Christ.  In other words, the reversion of destinies that Mary has announced in the Magnificat will be in full force under the new order that the Resurrected Christ ushers into the world of men.

Originally posted 2005-02-24 06:03:40. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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