Poetic justice Luke 16:19-31
The poetic justice of this gospel is gratifying, as it is instructive. It reminds that there are consequences to actions, that time on earth cannot be taken for granted, and more importantly, the manner others are treated, pave the destiny—Heaven or Hell.
The colour purple distinguished the poor from the rich; an expensive dye, to be dressed in purple signified wealth, status in society. Purple was the ‘bling’ in that era, as the iPhone 11 Pro is the ‘bling’ of today. The rich man dressed the part, and feasted well, and poor Lazarus would have happily enjoyed the table scraps.
The proximity of the disparity is stark, as Lazarus lies immediately outside the rich man’s gate. Interestingly, both knew of the other, aware of each other’s circumstances.
For Lazarus to be longing for table scraps, indicates that his hunger for food was ignored, never satisfied. Lazarus must have been a pitiful sight, covered in sores, with only the dogs showing him pity. The rich man passed poor Lazarus like a full PTSC bus late for the terminal.
What kind of heart would ignore a hungry man in a visibly poor state of health outside your gate? What kind of heart could be so oblivious to the desperate need of another?
There may not be any ‘poor Lazarus’ outside our gates; they may be inside our homes, our families, our communities, and our workplace. The ‘poor Lazarus’ may be of different social standing and economic circumstance but because we are dressed in ‘purple’, and they are not, their classification is among the lowest rungs. The ‘poor Lazarus’ may be silent sufferers, in need of comfort and kindness but because we are dressed in ‘fine linen’, and they are not, they are fit to be ignored.
The gospel picks up pace and the drama unfolds. Death has arrived, and the rich man is in his torment in Hades, the worst of the worst. Poor Lazarus is carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham in Heaven.
Money may buy every possible material luxury, but money cannot buy the one-way direct supersonic flight to Heaven.
“Father Abraham, pity me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in agony in these flames.” If God was a Trini, this sentence would make Him buss out with a good belly laugh. The gall of this rich man!
He is in Hades and he feels that his fine purple linen status is still rank enough to make demands. While alive this rich man showed no pity towards poor Lazarus, but wants pity now. Audacious, boldfaced and out of place!
This type of behaviour is so very common. We treat others badly, expect others to treat us well, and are aghast that anyone has the temerity to treat us fine purple linen folks as anything but royalty. Better to quietly burst that self-aggrandisement bubble before someone else does so in spectacular public fashion.
Abraham, patient in his wisdom, explains to the rich man why Lazarus cannot possibly cross the chasm between them. But the rich man persists, asking that Lazarus is sent to his father’s house to warn his brothers. In his mind, poor Lazarus is merely a tool, to be used for his, and his family’s benefit. The arrogance is rich and the irony is tragic. This all points to the debasing tendencies of human nature, how self-absorbed and smug we become when others are viewed not as fellow brothers and sisters, but as a means to an end. We dehumanise others when we fail to recognise ourselves in their suffering, and when we fail to treat others as God’s children, part of our family.
Being concerned about others, caring about their best interest, and showing compassion for their circumstance does not diminish us in any way. Whatever we have, little or much, is enough for everyone. To enrich another is to uplift their spirit, demonstrate positivity despite the situation, to do what is necessary, and to be bearers of light—as God’s chosen.
The gospel reflections for September are by Janine Aqui, parishioner of St Ann’s RC Church, St Ann’s parish, and Our Lady of the Assumption RC Church, Toco-Matelot parish. She is foremost a proud Catholic, working daily to become the best version of herself.