Lk 16: 19-31

“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried.

In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’

But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’

He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’

He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.

Holding on to that which holds us back

Sometimes we never do seem to learn; or, better put, we always take our problems with us, wherever we go, until we learn to let them loose.

This unnamed rich man is still trying to be in charge of the situation and of everybody else, even in his own miserable afterlife!  He does not even address Lazarus, but asks Abraham to send him as a waterboy to relieve his own suffering. He then is concerned only with the gain of his family – “so that they will not also come into this place of torment” – and not of the welfare of those who, like Lazarus, they are mistreating.  He even bandies words with Abraham about having “someone go to them from the dead” so they will repent. Shouldn’t his way to forgiveness have started with saying, “I’m sorry” to those who deserved it?

Is there an unnamed “rich man” somewhere deep inside us?  When we discover it, what will be our response?

—Fr. Greg Ostdiek, SJ, is a former Navy officer who is now a Jesuit priest of the Midwest Province.  Ordained this past June, he is spending his first year after ordination studying education at Harvard.


Come to me, all you that are weary
and are carrying heavy burdens,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me;
for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

—Mt 11:28-30