Monday, September 30, 2013

Lazarus and the Rich Man

On Sunday Fr Carmona made the insightful comment that the Lazarus' in our lives are usually much closer to us than we want to deal with; we'd rather do 'works of charity' at a distance, rather than live live the charity which God has prudentially given us opportunity to exercise; usually in the form of family and aquaintances.  It is here that we are called most clearly to share the abundance of our table, more often spiritually than carnally. What is that abundance? duh, Jesus in the Eucharist!

OK, I will have to say that in 17 years of being a Catholic, I have never heard a homily on this reading that echos St Augustin's explanation.  Before Jesus fed the 5000 with 5 loaves, he said "they are like sheep without a shepherd."  So the "rich man" is the Hebrew priesthood and educated caste, who posess evertything essential for salvation because they are the guardians of the Word of God. Lazarus represents the sheep without a shepherd, those who don't know God and are mired in their sins because they have not heard what they need to hear for their salvation.

And pastors today? We have this reading immediately following the long series in the Divine Office from St Augustin's Sermon on Pastors where he excoriates those pastors who feed on their sheep instead of shepherding their flock.

And we who are laymen; we are also members of the Royal Priesthood; our [priestly] sacrifice is a broken heart, a contrite spirit, but we are also surrounded by sheep without shepherds, Lazarus who is seeking God's assistance but starved for even a scrap, a drop of cold water.  Remember those springs of living water that are supposed to well up in us?

Oh yeah, dogs licking Lazarus' sores.  To a first century Hebrew, this final insult by an unclean animal would not be comforting, as it is easy for today's pet-saturated culture to imagine; rather this insult would probably be like you having an open wound and watching flies land on it and not being able to to anything about it; shudder! We may not have an appreciation of ancient Hebrew ritual cleanliness, but we understand that sort of physical uncleanliness!

Being a Dominican, it is hard to resist the temptation to assign to the dog the identity of bad or heretical preachers; their 'ministrations' to Lazarus are not only of no assistance, they drive him further from being saved.

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