Share your bread

Share your bread

Twenty-Sixth Sunday of the Year. Fr Piers Linley preaches on a parable told by Jesus in which the lots of two men are reversed in death.

Jesus targets this parable specifically at the Pharisees, when he has just been telling them that it is impossible to serve both God and Mammon, both God and worldly wealth. Luke tells us that the Pharisees, being lovers of money, were scoffing at Jesus for saying such things. They felt secure in their wealth, saw it as a sign of their virtue and scorned the poor. So a very sharply pointed parable with quite a contrast.

A rich man — significantly nameless – is clothed in purple and fine linen imported at great expense from abroad, their cost a thousand times that of a day’s wages. Every day he feasts sumptuously — in a world where the poor pray:

Give us this day our daily bread.

The ornate gateway of the rich man’s house keeps out Lazarus — significantly the only character in a parable to be given a name. The gate keeps in the rich man — prevents him using his wealth as it should be used for the poor. Lazarus is helpless even to stop the dogs licking his sores — but his name means ‘God is my help’.

In death things are reversed. To the Pharisees well-merited wealth on earth booked you a corresponding seat at the heavenly banquet. The rich man doubtless received an elaborate burial but … finds himself in Hades… The poor man dies – no one even cares for his body – that is left to the angels, who carry him to Abraham’s bosom.

The rich man lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus in his bosom. And he called out, “Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame.”

It was his tongue the rich man had so sated with sumptuous food. Now it burns. But he has learnt nothing — he thinks of Lazarus as of no account, fit only to be sent on the errand of bring him – the formerly rich man – some water as relief.

Abraham confronts the rich man with the reality of the situation he prepared for himself by his selfish life. His earthly life has resulted in his present state. That is a definitive step with no turning back.

But still the formerly rich man sees Lazarus only a potential lackey…

And he said, “Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.”
Abraham says, “They have Moses and the prophets: let them hear them.”
And he [the rich man] said, “No, father Abraham; but if some one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.”

Abraham replies: “If someone goes to your brothers in a dream as you suggest they won’t listen to him. But more than that – even if someone actually rises from the dead – not merely goes back as messenger – even if someone actually rises from the dead – as Jesus did – still then your brothers did not believe … Your brothers had Moses and the prophets – if they are willing to hear, then that is more than sufficient and nothing else will convince them…”

The prophet Isaiah:

Share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked cover him;
do not despise those who are of your own flesh…

The affluent Western nations concern themselves with what clothes are fashionable and exploit the naked and starving ones of the Third World to grow cash crops for the Western market. Even the crumbs bestowed on the Third World perpetuate their indebtedness ? Heed the warning while there is time!

Readings: Amos 6:1,4-7 | 1 Tim 6:11-16 | Luke 16:19-31

fr. Piers Linley was Chaplain to the Dominican Sisters at Bushey in Hertfordshire; he died at the Priory of St Dominic, London. May he rest in peace.