Slavery or Freedom?—Fifth Sunday of Luke

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God, Amen.

There are two men in the parable of today’s Gospel reading, one free and another a slave; for, although he had worldly riches, the rich man was a slave to them whereas Lazarus was free.  The rich man had accumulated wealth and was able to feast sumptuously every day and wear the most expensive—designer!—clothing but was caught by his money, scared of losing it.  And Lazarus had nothing.  But in his poverty, in his destitution, he was able to be an image of God.

Elsewhere the Lord tells us,

Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever receives one little child like this in my name receives me.

Matthew 18:3–5; cf. Mark 10:15, Luke 18:17

This is not childishness—we are not called to be childish—but as a child who is completely dependent on our Father in Heaven.  And this is Lazarus: completely dependent on God even to send him the dogs to lick his sores.

And I reflect on my life and I consider, “Am I completely dependent on God or on my money?”  Because if I am dependent on anything other than God then I am denying my personhood—notice how in the parable the rich man does not even have a name, the most basic of definitions to be a person, because he has denied God and denied reality.

We go on to see the consequences of the lives of the two men: from Hades the rich man cries out, outwardly for the sake of his brothers but inwardly to make excuse for himself, “but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.”  And, my dear brothers and sisters, Christ is saying this to you and he is saying this to me, “You have received the witness of the Apostles and Martyrs, you have heard the proclamation of the Gospel, you have experienced me risen from the dead: will you now choose freedom or slavery?”  Because this is the option, the only routes available to us.  Will we be free in Christ—as a child and completely dependent on our Father—or will we seek refuge in money, in fine living, in our talents, in our family, in slavery to this fallen world.  Will we be as the rich man or as Lazarus?

To our risen Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ be all glory, honour and worship, together with his unoriginate Father and All-holy, Good and Life-giving Spirit, Amen.

Brethren, the God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed for ever, knows that I do not lie. At Damascus, the governor under King Aretas guarded the city of Damascus in order to seize me, but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and escaped his hands. I must boast; there is nothing to be gained by it, but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven — whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into Paradise –whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows — and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses. Though if I wish to boast, I shall not be a fool, for I shall be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me. And to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me; but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
— Second Corinthians 11:31–33, 12:1–9

The Lord said, “There was a rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazaros, full of sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table; moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried; and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far off and Lazaros in his bosom. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Lazaros to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazaros in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses, and the prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if some one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to them, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead.’
— Luke 16:19–31