Sunday, 25 September 2016

Dives and Lazarus, 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Lk 16:19-31
This is the second Sunday in a row that we have heard the Lord Jesus speak to us about money. Last week we heard His warning, “You cannot be the slave both of God and of money”. Today, I’m going to speak about Lazarus and the Rich Man, a man tradition calls Dives ("dye-vees", Latin for ‘rich’).

First, Lazarus, the poor man begging at the gate. The parable’s focus, and sermons on it, usually focus on the Rich Man, but Lazarus himself shows us something.
Lazarus was cleared suffering –covered in ‘sores’, hungering for scraps of food.
Lazarus was clearly being wronged. He had a need and his need was being ignored by someone able to help him, someone who had a duty to help him.
Yet, he did not curse the other man, or hate him, or even complain.
He bore it patiently. And when he died, he was carried off to heaven.

Many of us will have something in our lives that makes us relate to Lazarus. Something in our lives where we feel that a clearly obvious need is being ignored by others, maybe even ignored by our family and those we live or work with.
The example of Lazarus calls us to bear it charitably, with love for the very people who ignore our needs.
Similarly, the example of Christ in His suffering calls us to do the same. To not curse others but to love and pray for them, and even to help them even while they neglect to help us.

The Rich Man, Dives, is interesting. Interesting because he didn’t do anything DIRECTLY wrong, all he did was indirect –he IGNORED Lazarus’s need.
Did the rich man take away Lazarus’s food? No.
Did he beat him? No.
Yet, by neglect, he was the cause of the other man’s suffering.
And Dives was cast into Hell, “in agony”(Lk 16:24), for eternity.

People sometimes tell priests, “I don’t do anything wrong, I’m a good person”
But, the standard by which we each need to measure ourselves by is not just what we DO but what we FAIL to do.
What do we say in the Confiteor at the start of Mass? “In what I have done and in what I have failed to do”.
And I know in my own confession (because priests also sin and priests also need to go to confession, on a frequent basis –frequent confession because I am a frequent sinner)
when I go to confession, what takes the most time is what I have failed to do.
And the account of Dives’s eternal damnation in Hellfire, if it teaches us anything, teaches us that we will be judged as severely for what we fail to do as for what we do directly.

There is another point to note also, Dives KNEW what he SHOULD do. When he pleaded with Abraham he did not claim that didn’t know what he should have done –he did not plead ignorance. He had Moses and the Prophets to warn him.
We too have had plenty of warnings. We have heard the Gospel. And Judgement will come –for some of us it will be good news, for some of us it will not.
Do I hear and not listen? Do I profess the Creed but make it meaningless in my actions?

Lazarus and Dives. For many of us there is a bit of each of them in us. So we can learn from each of them.
Learn from Dives that we must not neglect the needs of those around, and ,must not neglect the teachings we know we have heard.
And learn from Lazarus to be patient in our sufferings and not resort to hatred of the man who neglected him. We too must love –love those who fail to love us. And if we love, then, like Lazarus, we will be carried off to Heaven and eternal consolation.

Dives is pronounced…
The OED says "dye-veez"
Merriam Webster says “Di·ves”

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