Gospel Lectio Divina for Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time - September 25, 2022

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Gospel Lectio Divina for Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time - September 25, 2022

By David Kilby

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.

O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

READ

Lk 16:19-31

Jesus said to the Pharisees:
"There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen
and dined sumptuously each day.
And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores,
who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps
that fell from the rich man's table.
Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.
When the poor man died,
he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham.
The rich man also died and was buried,
and from the netherworld, where he was in torment,
he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off
and Lazarus at his side.
And he cried out, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me.
Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue,
for I am suffering torment in these flames.'
Abraham replied,
'My child, remember that you received
what was good during your lifetime
while Lazarus likewise received what was bad;
but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented.
Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established
to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go
from our side to yours or from your side to ours.'
He said, 'Then I beg you, father,
send him to my father's house, for I have five brothers,
so that he may warn them,
lest they too come to this place of torment.'
But Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the prophets.
Let them listen to them.'
He said, 'Oh no, father Abraham,
but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.'
Then Abraham said, 'If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets,
neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.'"

 

MEDITATE

Father Abraham” 

And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven” (Matthew 23:9). Jesus wasn’t talking about Abraham when he said this, even though Abraham is in heaven. Yet, here Scripture mentions Abraham as being called ‘Father’. Was the rich man wrong in calling Abraham ‘Father?’ No, because we have many other instances where holy men and women use the phrase. For instance, in his canticle in the first chapter of Luke, Zechariah mentioned, “the oath which [God] swore to our father Abraham”. One may argue that it’s different with Abraham because he is the father of Israel and God told him he will be the father of many nations. But David is also given the title “father” in the New Testament in Mark 11:10 and Luke 4:24. One may still think since David was the first king of Israel and Jesus’ ancestor that the title “father” could still apply. OK, but then St. Paul says to the Corinthians “For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (1 Corinthians 4:16).

I don’t want to get carried away with Scripture references, because even the devil can use Scripture and we could make the Bible say almost anything if we choose enough verses out of context. The truth I want to highlight is the way Jesus presents seemingly contradictory teachings that cause us to search for the common thread and true meaning between them, so we see the paradox. It is a paradox that Jesus would tell us to call no man on earth “father”, while Scripture uses the word regularly to refer to other people on earth, and people other than God the Father. In this Sunday’s parable, the rich man only calls Abraham “father” because he wants something from Abraham. The rich man is acknowledging Abraham’s providential character, but still, Abraham does not provide because it is not the Father’s will. A father must know the right time to provide and the right time to punish his children. God the Father is merciful, but he is also just. He cannot condone sin, and providing mercy to those who have no remorse would contradict his nature. So when the rich man says, “Father Abraham”, he is addressing one who represents the fatherhood and fatherly nature of God the Father. It is very possible that the rich man did not recognize this distinction and saw only his ancestor Abraham, and not the God of Abraham when he came to the afterlife. It is possible that the rich man lived his entire life not seeing or fearing God the Father, who sees the good deeds done in secret and raises up the lowly. In an indirect way, we see in this parable how God the Father works vicariously through his faithful ones as he works through Abraham here. 

“have pity on me”

The moral of this parable is to not wait until it’s too late. When I lack faith, I doubt the consequences of my sin. It’s easier to live a life that way, I say. But there’s always a dead end. Sin does not possess the same infinite qualities that goodness possesses. This is something we can recognize in this life. We don’t have to wait for the afterlife to see sin as a dead end. When the rich man says, “have pity on me”, he missed his chance. Justice is like gravity. Sooner or later, the scales have to balance. We can’t cheat justice or the truth. Eventually, they catch up to us. If I slip and fall off a cliff, God is not going to suspend the laws of nature that govern his entire universe simply because I shout “have pity on me!” as I’m falling. By then it’s too late. But perhaps we think Father Abraham is being harsh when he says, 

“They have Moses and the prophets”

But this is the same as saying, “They’ve known about gravity all their lives. They should know to not stand so close to the ledge.” Why should God change the rules just for this one man’s family? God may suspend the laws of his creation at times, but he always has a higher reason than the reasons the rich man had. The rich man was asking for a miracle when he asked Abraham if Lazarus could rise from the dead to warn his family. For a person who is seeking the truth, a miracle may persuade them to believe. But for those who are living in sin, not even a miracle will convince them. In our times, we have stories of miracles. Not many of us have experienced one outright. By a miracle, I mean an event where the laws of nature were apparently suspended–not just a coincidence and not just an inexplicable phenomenon. Like the paradoxes in Scripture highlighted earlier, miracles point to a deeper truth that often eludes us. A miracle explains itself. It leaves no room for doubt. It is the answer. Meanwhile, coincidences and phenomena leave us wondering. When God decides to perform a miracle, it’s already part of his plan. He is not going to alter reality just to comply with our own will.

Through it all though, we still have a prayer. When we pray, when we take out time here on earth to improve our relationship with God by dialoguing with him, we become part of his will. His will becomes our own. There is no limit to what we can do when we are in God’s will. We may think we have more freedom when we do things our way, but it doesn’t take long to discover the limitations of that kind of freedom.  

 

PRAY

Dear heavenly Father,

Through prayer, I can discover your will while here on earth, and avoid the torments described in this Sunday’s Gospel. Thank you for the wisdom you teach me. Help me to recognize the truth as I live on earth before it’s too late. Spare my loved ones from the torments of hell, and teach me to be a witness to them to help lead them to you. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

 

LISTEN

When we take a test, afterward we learn if we passed or failed. Today’s Gospel is about what happens if we do not pass the test of life. Life is class, and Jesus is our teacher. Did we listen to him while we were in class? We listen by reading Scripture, heeding its advice, and applying it to our lives. We don’t have to get everything right to pass, but obedience and diligence go a long way. It turns out that the concept of “father” is very appropriate when seeking to do the Lord’s will because we are like children who simply need to listen to our Father in heaven in order to get there. 

 

Kilby is a freelance writer from New Jersey and managing editor of Catholic World Report.

                        Glory to the Father The Son and The Holy Spirit


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