The Rich man and Lazarus,
Drawing by Eugène Burnand (1850-1921),
Drawn in 1899,
Pencil and graphite on paper
© Musée Eugène Burnand, Moudon

The Rich man and Lazarus,
Drawing by Eugène Burnand (1850-1921),
Drawn in 1899,
Pencil and graphite on paper
© Musée Eugène Burnand, Moudon

Gospel of 4 March 2021

The Rich Man and Lazarus

Luke 16:19-31

Jesus said to the Pharisees: 'There was a rich man who used to dress in purple and fine linen and feast magnificently every day. And at his gate there lay a poor man called Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to fill himself with the scraps that fell from the rich man's table. Dogs even came and licked his sores. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried.

'In his torment in Hades he looked up and saw Abraham a long way off with Lazarus in his bosom. So he cried out, "Father Abraham, pity 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." "My son," Abraham replied "remember that during your life good things came your way, just as bad things came the way of Lazarus. Now he is being comforted here while you are in agony. But that is not all: between us and you a great gulf has been fixed, to stop anyone, if he wanted to, crossing from our side to yours, and to stop any crossing from your side to ours."

'The rich man replied, "Father, I beg you then to send Lazarus to my father's house, since I have five brothers, to give them warning so that they do not come to this place of torment too." "They have Moses and the prophets," said Abraham "let them listen to them." "Ah no, father Abraham," said the rich man "but if someone comes to them from the dead, they will repent." Then Abraham said to him, "If they will not listen either to Moses or to the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead."'

Reflection on the Etching

Our drawing is by Swiss-born artist Eugène Burnand. He was a deeply religious man and is known for his drawings and paintings of the parables. Of all the parables Jesus told, today's reading is the only one which uses the names of real people. Because of the mention of Abraham and Lazarus, some people believe that this is not a parable but a true story. In any case, today's reading is beautifully illustrated by Burnand. We see the poor man Lazarus with the 'dogs who even came and licked his sores', sitting in a grand hallway of a palace. The bowl on his right is so small that even when filled it wouldn't feed a single person. The dogs are onlookers at the sad situation of the poor man. 

The Letter of James says beautifully what our lives on earth are about: our lives are a 'mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes'  (James 4:14). So in this life we have to care for each other and look after each other. When death comes knocking on our door, ultimately we won't be able to take any riches with us. The only thing that will matter will be our personal relationship with Jesus Christ. 

The rich man's sin was not that he was rich, but that, during his earthly life, he did not care for or even see Lazarus, despite him sitting at the entrance of his home every day. 

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