The colour purple- Thursday, second week of Lent- Luke 16:19-31
The question that needs to be answered after reading this text is, will the five remaining brothers and us, who read the text in the modern world, follow the example of the rich man or heed the teachings of Jesus and that of the Old Testament about the care for the needy.
If you read the text carefully you will see that the rich man has no name, though in the tradition of the Church he came to be called ‘Dives’, which means “rich” in Latin. And besides the fact that he was rich the text does not tell us that he committed any moral wrong. It almost seems to appear that his condemnation stemmed from the fact that he was ‘merely rich’, which technically is no fault of his nor is being ‘poor’ a reason to be taken to heaven. Did Jesus simply have a preferential option for ‘Lazarus,’ which by the way is the only name given to anyone in Jesus’ parables (It means El-azar, “God has helped.”)
There is no condemnation in being rich per se; the condemnation is in not being sensitive to the needs of others. The narrative leaves little threads of this charge against Dives. We know the man is rich, it is told to us clearly but what is also told to us is that he dressed in purple and fine linen. Purple was a colour that was reserved for royalty. There is ambition in the man, an ambition that blinds generosity; for while he dressed in purple and linen he did not notice the poor man ‘at the gate’.
Luke makes clear that the poor are a focus of Jesus’ ministry. In his inaugural sermon, Jesus declares that he has been anointed by the Spirit of the Lord “to bring good news to the poor” (4:18; see also 7:22). Jesus admonishes his followers not just to invite to their parties the friends and neighbors who can repay them, but to extend their invitations to “the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind” (14:13). This is echoed when Jesus describes the kingdom of God as a wedding banquet where the invitation has been extended to “the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind” (14:21). ( crf Lois Malcolm)
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