Scripture in Depth
Reading I: Amos 6: 1a,4-7
Last Sunday’s Old Testament reading dealt with the question of social injustice. Today’s reading is a denunciation of private luxury. It forms a fitting companion reading for the parable of Dives and Lazarus, which is the gospel of the day.
Responsorial Psalm: 146: 7, 8-9, 9-10
This psalm initiates the last group of Alleluia psalms in the psalter, all of them hymns of praise to YHWH for his mighty acts. Again, this psalm is highly fitting for this Sunday.
Verses 9-10 echo the denunciation of the rich in the first reading and God’s concern for the poor, the hungry, and the oppressed. It thus looks forward to the gospel.
Reading II: 1 Timothy 6: 11-16
This passage from 1 Timothy 6 has been interpreted as an ordination charge (H. Käsemann). In this charge the ordinand is reminded of the confession of faith made at baptism. The ordained minister has to teach this faith to others.
This suggests an important relation between ordination and baptism. Ordination is the form that the fulfillment of their baptismal vocation takes for some.
The “commandment” may be the actual ordination charge (see Moses’ charge to Joshua at his ordination in Nm 27:19), an Old Testament type that provided both the synagogue and the early Church (see Hippolytus’ ordinal) with the model for their ordination practices.
Gospel: Luke 16: 19-31
The first part of the parable of Dives and Lazarus is a well-known folk tale relating the reversal of fortunes in the next world. It is a conventional piece of moralizing.
As so often with the Gospel parables, however, there is a surprise at the end—the dialogue between Dives and Abraham. This is where the real point of the parable lies.
The rich man asks that Lazarus be allowed to convey a special warning to his five brothers, who are still alive. The answer is that they have the word of Scripture, and that is sufficient. Those who are unmoved by the message of Scripture will not be convinced by a miracle either, even by a resurrection.
Such, presumably, was Jesus’ point in telling the parable.
By placing the parable after the string of sayings on the right use of wealth, which follows the parable of the unjust steward, Luke (and evidently the compilers of the Lectionary) calls attention to the conventional part of the story—the reversal of the fortune of the rich and the poor in the next world.
Since the first part of the parable is conventional, it would be wrong to build up a doctrine of the next life on the reference to Abraham’s bosom.
Reginald H. Fuller
**From Saint Louis University