Sunday Readings and Reflections

Leandro BASSANO,  Dives and Lazarus (1595)

Sunday, September 25 
Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time 

Roman Ordinary calendar

St. Finbarr

Book of Amos 6,1.4-7.

Thus says the LORD the God of hosts: Woe to the complacent in Zion! 
Lying upon beds of ivory, stretched comfortably on their couches, They eat lambs taken from the flock, and calves from the stall! 
Improvising to the music of the harp, like David, they devise their own accompaniment. 
They drink wine from bowls and anoint themselves with the best oils; yet they are not made ill by the collapse of Joseph! 
Therefore, now they shall be the first to go into exile, and their wanton revelry shall be done away with. 

Psalms 146(145),7.8-9.10.

The LORD keeps faith forever, 
secures justice for the oppressed, 
gives food to the hungry. 
the LORD sets captives free. 

The LORD gives sight to the blind. 
The LORD raises up those who were bowed down; 
the LORD loves the just. 
The LORD protects strangers. 

The fatherless and the widow he sustains, 
but the way of the wicked he thwarts. 
The LORD shall reign forever; 
your God, O Zion, through all generations. Alleluia. 

First Letter to Timothy 6,11-16.

But you, man of God, pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. 
Compete well for the faith. Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called when you made the noble confession in the presence of many witnesses. 
I charge (you) before God, who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus, who gave testimony under Pontius Pilate for the noble confession, 
to keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ 
that the blessed and only ruler will make manifest at the proper time, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 
who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, and whom no human being has seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal power. Amen. 

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 16,19-31.

Jesus said to the Pharisees: “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. 
When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, 
and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 
And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.’ 
Abraham replied, ‘My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented. 
Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours.’ 
He said, ‘Then I beg you, father, send him to my father’s house, 
for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment.’ 
But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.’ 
He said, ‘Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ 
Then Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.'”

Reflection by Msgr. Steenson

In the unsettling parable of Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16:19-31, Jesus speaks of the fate of a rich man who enjoyed everything that money could buy yet insulated himself from the needs of the poor. While he feasted sumptuously every day, dressed in the finest clothes, he ignored the poor man who sat in pathetic misery outside his door, hungry and covered with sores that the dogs licked. Early Christian commentators saw those dogs as more merciful than the rich man.

After both men died, they woke up in the next life and found that their circumstances had changed dramatically. Lazarus, the poor man, was carried by the angels to “Abraham’s bosom,” heavenward. The rich man, on the other hand, found himself in Hades. His existence on earth had been full of comforts, but now he experienced torment, in the form of scorching fire. Whereas on earth everyone would have known the rich man’s name but not the poor man’s, in the afterlife it is just the opposite: we are told Lazarus’ name but not the rich man’s. We call him Dives (Latin for rich), but his name was not recorded in the book of life.

The rich man looks up from the flames and far off he sees Lazarus with Abraham. He begs for the mercy he never showed to Lazarus on earth. “Father Abraham,” he cries out, “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” (v. 24). Abraham replies to his plea with three points of great significance:

1) The way we live has everlasting consequences. “Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things, but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish” (v. 25). He was like another rich man in the Gospels who had come to Jesus asking him what he must do to be saved. He had kept all the commandments, and yet he went away sorrowful, for he could not grasp that it was the love of wealth which stood between him and the Lord. In Luke’s version of the Beatitudes, the poor are blessed (6:20), but woes await the rich (6:24). It is a theme found in Mary’s Magnificat (1:52).

2) The opportunity to repent ends at death. “Between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us” (v. 25). Even after death, the arrogance of the rich man continues. He calls for Lazarus to bring cool water to comfort him. He still doesn’t get it. All Lazarus meant to him was someone to call upon to serve his needs. Even in hell, the rich man’s self-centeredness endures.

When Jesus says that “a great chasm has been fixed” (v. 26), this means that the very purpose of the gulf between heaven and hell is to keep people from passing to and fro. This is one of the hardest teachings of the Gospel, one which modern ears stubbornly refuse to hear. St. John Chrysostom, who preached at least seven sermons on this parable, kept emphasizing this unbridgeable abyss to his congregation: “do not neglect the time of our earthly life, given to us by God’s kindness, for this is the opportunity for our salvation.”

3) Sin blinds a man to the truth. The rich man asks Abraham if Lazarus could be sent to his five brothers, to warn them to change their ways, lest they should also fall into hell when they die. But Abraham refuses: “They have Moses and the prophets. Let them hear them.” If a man cannot be compassionate with the Scriptures in hand and a destitute man on his doorstep, nothing — neither a visitor from another world nor a revelation of the horrors of hell — will reach him otherwise.

The early Christian poet Prudentius summed it up this way:

But until the perishable body

You will raise up, O God, and refashion,

What mansion of rest is made ready

For the soul that is pure and unsullied?

It shall rest in the patriarch’s bosom

As did Lazarus, hedged round with flowers,

Whom Dives beheld from a distance

While he burned in the fires everlasting.

(Hymn for Every Day 10.149–56)

Msgr. Steenson is ordinary emeritus of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, created by Pope Benedict XVI for those coming from the Anglican tradition to full communion in the Catholic Church. He now serves as vice president of the Coming Home Network.

Traditional Latin Mass Readings for this Sunday

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