An important way to understand the parables of Christ is to look for the anomalies. For example, in today’s parable (Luke 16:19 – 31), The Rich Man and Lazarus, we wonder if being wealthy is a sin. More subtle, but even more interesting is that, of all the parables of Jesus that come to us in the Gospels, this is the only one where a character has a name, Lazarus. The rich man wants Abraham to send Lazarus back to life to warn the rich man’s family about the consequences of their decisions during life. Abraham replies that they have Moses and the Prophets, the revelation of God, to explain how life should be lived. The rich man exclaims, “If someone returned from the dead they will get the message for sure.” Is this a parable? Remember the brother of Margaret and Mary, whose name was Lazarus. Lazarus dies and Christ restores him to life (John 11:1 – 44). Restoring Lazarus to life was a sure sign of the divinity of Christ and Lazarus gave witness to the truth of Christ’s message. The response of the religious leaders was to try to kill Lazarus (John 12:10).
There is a lot of content in this parable, as there is in any section of Sacred Scripture. One point is clearly that we human beings resist accepting God’s message. Think about what Christ said to the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:25), “O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” There are two questions Christ wants to raise in our minds with this parable. The first, a rhetorical question, “does God speak to us?” The answer, of course is yes. To Christ’s Jewish listeners, the answer was given by the words of the parable attributed to Abraham, “they have Moses and the prophets.” To Christian listeners, 2000 years later, we have the Divine Word, Jesus Christ (John 1:1). The real question is, are we listening? Does the presence of the Word of God among us influence our lives? The Israelites, 3000 years ago, had the presence of God among them in the temple in Jerusalem. They tended to take God for granted (Jeremiah 7:4).
Today, we have, not only the Word of God, which gives us instruction and consolation, we have the very presence of the Divine Word, here among us, in the Eucharist. A Pew Research Institute survey taken in February 2019 found that 69% of Catholics who claim to attend Mass regularly, don’t know that, at Mass, bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. If we don’t recognize the presence of God in our midst how can we follow His direction in our lives? Right before He ascended into heaven, Christ promised to remain with us to the end of time (Matthew 28:20). Christ fulfills that promise in the Sacraments and the teaching of the Church. For you and I to have full life, complete life, eternal life, we need to seek out the Word and message of God, in the Church, as the focus of our lives.