The colour purple- Thursday, second week of Lent- Luke 16:19-31

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)

The narrative now indicates a reversal of fortune. Lazarus is now in Abraham’s bosom while the rich man is in Hades where he was tormented. No Jew would have had any difficulty in understanding the privileged place of Lazarus. Every Jew’s hope was that at the messianic banquet, they would have the privilege of sitting at the choicest place besides Abraham where they would recline with him.

Ironically, the rich man now attempts to claim for himself the privilege of being son; of being born of Jewish stock. He calls Abraham, “father” and yet even now does not acknowledge the role of his ‘brother’ Lazarus whom he neglected on earth. The arrogance of the rich man know no end for even in his torment he wishes that Lazarus ‘ be sent’ to his father’s house to warn his brothers.

Abraham is clear, neither will there be a drop of water for the rich man nor will Lazarus be sent to create a sensational awakening in the conscience of his brothers. They have Moses and the prophets to awaken their conscience. The warning of Abraham is a warning for us all, for we too have Moses and the prophets in the form of God’s divine word that we hear. Oh that today you may listen to his voice, harden not your hearts

Fr Warner D’Souza

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One thought on “The colour purple- Thursday, second week of Lent- Luke 16:19-31”

  • I would say the parable of Dives and Lazarus holds even more true today than in yester years. We scarcely think it a wrong doing leave alone a sin to slog our daily help for a pittance …. and a pittance is what they receive as their salary whether we like to hear it or not … for the amount of labour they put in. Labour which you and I are unable to do and which is why we employ them. How many of us offer them a cup to f tea and biscuits when they come like we would offer our guests? And a light lunch because they most likely will have to go home and cook for the family? Yes we take as our right coffee breaks and lunch breaks at work . Perhaps the story of Dives and Lazarus should shake us out of our sense of ease. Forgive us Lord for we sin and are not aware of it. Open the eyes of our hearts as minds Lord.


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