Reflection for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

The readings for this Sunday can be found HERE

1st Reading:

Amos 6:1a, 4-7

This is the third of three prophetic woes. All three condemn the lack of justice and righteousness in both the Northern and Southern kingdoms. As we hear clearly in this woe, they warn of the Babylonian exile and present it as punishment for the evil ways of the leadership. Their crime is caring more about the pleasures of this world than about God’s law. At the end of the Book of Amos, though, there is the prophecy that all will be restored by a future king from the line of David.

2nd Reading:

1 Timothy 6:11-16

This week we jump to the end of the letter to Timothy. I find it interesting that they didn’t include the verse before it; “For the love of money is the root of all evils, and some people in their desire for it have strayed from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains”, since this verse seems to go with the 1st Reading & Gospel

Gospel:

Luke 16:19-31

“…but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.” Lk 16:30b

In last week’s Gospel selection, remember, Jesus was talking to His disciples. This week He is talking to the “Pharisees who love money”. Don’t judge them too quickly, though. Remember that in the ancient world it was often thought that wealth and the “good life” were blessings God gave to the righteous while suffering and illness were punishment for sin.

To the first hearers of this Gospel, the rich man may have looked like God’s favored one while Lazarus would have been considered an obvious sinner. The Book of Job deals with the confusion created by this concept by asking the question “Why do good people suffer?” The answer, from the Book of Job, by the way, is that we are not capable of understanding.

We sometimes have similar feelings today. I remember that after the attack on September 11, 2001. Many of the survivors attributed their good fortune to an act of God. It caused many others to ask why, then, God let the others perish; did they deserve it for some reason?

But Jesus wasn’t talking about that. This whole Gospel selection is about taking care of the needy and it doesn’t open the question as to why they are needy. This Gospel doesn’t ask whether or not it was his own fault that Lazarus was needy. It just describes him as someone who is needy.

How could the Pharisees have missed the fact that they were supposed to take care of the needy? They are the ones, remember, who started the synagogue system so that the Law could be studied by everyone; and, taking care of the widow, the orphan, the poor and the alien are constant themes in Hebrew scripture. Even today, taking care of the needy is an important part of Judaism. The Pharisees of Jesus’ time, though, evidently emphasized other aspects of the Law over this one.

Jesus, on the other hand, is constantly emphasizing the Law of Love, Mt 22:36-40, the Great Commandment, and points out, in Mt 25:31-46, The Judgement of the Nations, that treating others with love is the way of loving God. In today’s Gospel selection, Jesus tells the Pharisees that this commandment is in their Law.

When Abraham says, “They have Moses and the prophets…”, he is saying that taking care of the needy is already in Scripture, in the Books of Moses (the Law) and in the prophetic writings. The rich man, by saying “…if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent” admits that they are not following Scripture. The question for us is, “Are we following Scripture?

By the way, don’t miss the contrast of the proximity of the rich man and the poor man during earthly life and the great chasm between them after death. I think it is telling that Lazarus is named in this parable; parables don’t usually name people. Maybe Lazarus is named so we could learn that even though the rich man ignored his needs, day-by-day, he did know Lazarus’ name.

Reflection:

“There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores. Lk 16:19-21

Question:

What words or phrases grabbed your attention during the Liturgy of the Word on Sunday? What connection do those words or phrases have to your day-to-day life? (Why do you think they grabbed your attention?) What might God be trying to say to you through these words or phrases? What response should you make? What action should you take?

Alternative:

Share about/Reflect upon your experience with the needy.  Who is (are) the Lazarus(es) at your (our) door? What are the scraps from your (our) table of which they would gladly eat their fill? How can you (we) change your (our) way of living so that they might have access to those scraps?

Verse by Verse:

This Sunday’s selection begins at v. 19, but if we look back to Lk 16:14-15 we see that Jesus is talking to the “Pharisees who love money”. This points back to Lk 16:13 that you cannot serve both God and mammon and condemns the Pharisees for being unable to serve God because of their love for money.

Lk 16:19 | The description of the rich man is similar to the way kings dressed and ate.

Lk  16:20 | The name Lazarus is a shortened form of the name Eleazar which means “helped by God”.

Lk 16:20-21 | The description of Lazarus is in striking contrast to that of the rich man.

Lk 16:22 | Note that Lazarus was carried away by angels while the rich man was buried. The implication is that even in death Lazarus was ignored by the world but taken care of by God.

Lk 16:22 | The bosom of Abraham is a metaphor for reclining at table with Abraham. During Jesus’ time the Jewish people reclined on their left elbow at a low table leaving their right arm free to partake of the food. If you were to the right of someone, you were at their bosom. To recline at the hosts’ bosom was an honor.

Lk 16:23-26 | The “netherworld” was the abode of the dead, an undefined place where the ancient people thought all people went after death. Thinking that the good and the bad shouldn’t share the same fate, the concept of a place of torment and a place of comfort might exist in the same netherworld. It was later theological reflection that separated the two.

Lk 16:29 | Moses and the prophets (the Law and the Prophets) are the two lungs of Hebrew Scripture.

9 thoughts on “Reflection for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

  1. Today, I went to the beach front with my kids. I found a sea shell and gave
    it to my 4 year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She put the shell to
    her ear and screamed. There was a hermit crab inside
    and it pinched her ear. She never wants to go back!

    LoL I know this is totally off topic but I had to tell someone!

    1. Was the hermit crab a religious hermit, trying to experience God? I found you comment quite funny. I’m lucky enough to have a house at the beach and I love the feeling of the earth breathing as the waves roll in and out. I hope your daughter gains and appreciation for it.

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