Thursday, September 23, 2010

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Lazarus: Why did Jesus use the name Lazarus when he was telling the parable? Why for that matter did he name Lazarus at all? Many Gospel characters are not named and are  simply called homo quidem - a certain man. If you ever read the Ireland's Own ( a popular folk magazine published in Ireland) you will notice toward the back of the publication a page called 'The lilt of Irish laughter'; it is a page full of short funny stories. The characters in these stories always have names like 'Mulcahy' or 'McMahon' - random surnames that name the protagonist of the joke. Was the Lord doing the same? Could "There was a poor man named Lazarus" have been "There was a poor man named Ben Shemal". Names have significance and meaning.  Lazarus comes from Hebrew which means "My God helps." And throughout the story we are confronted with reality of the meaning of the name, God did indeed help him; bringing him to the bosom of Abraham. Often times we think only of the present reality and forget of the life that awaits us. We profess this in the Creed every Sunday after all - we believe in life of the world to come.

I was just looking at the opening scene from Gladiator, a great film. Hard to believe its 10 years old. Maximus (played by Russell Crowe) is preparing his cavalry for battle. He tells them to fight bravely and reminds them that "what we do in life echoes in eternity". That is not far off Christian thought. If the rich man (who is not named, curiously) had been a little kinder to the poor man he saw every day, what side of the great gulf could he have found himself?

The dogs used to come and lick Lazarus' sores. Because they were good little dogs? Dogs were unclean and for a dog to lick a man's wound, I presume,  would have been as low as you could get. Still he is Lazarus: "My God helps". In hard times I think it is most appropriate to keep in mind that God is still on our side.

Et vitam venturi saeculi - and the life of the world to come.


  1. Brief thought about that Gospel reading - note how indifference to the poor and indifference to faith are linked. Abraham tells us that Dives's brothers won't even change their ways if a man comes back from the dead to tell them to change their lives. It seems to me that we are being warned that an indifference can develop in our lives which closes us off from both the power of God and our duties to other people. To what extent is that a fair picture of life today for many people?

  2. Isn't interesting that tradition has given Dives his name, while Our Lord did not? On a complete aside, when the Pope signs his name - Benedictus PP XVI - does the PP mean Pater Pauperum (Father of the poor) - it is one suggestion that I heard made, but I am not sure?

  3. It should be noted that Lazarus is the only character in any of of Christ's parables that Christ named.

    Mark Shea has some interesting thoughts on this.

    I think the PP just stands for Papa.