“There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day." Lk 16:19
Purple is not only the liturgical color of Lent, it is also the color of royalty. The evangelist tell us that though the rich man, like the priests, dresses in purple and fine linen, he has no name. Is Jesus using code language to challenge his antagonists? We do not know, but it is even more interesting that the poor man, who the rich man never even notices, has a name, an identity and becomes the key figure in the parable.
When social standing, wealth and power lead to blindness of spirit, they become impediments to knowing and loving God, and must be avoided or rejected. That the rich man has no name suggests that his wealth has not given him an identity worth remembering. Only those, rich and poor alike, who see with the eyes of God and respond in justice to the poor deserve to be remembered, named and imitated. Lazarus, though poor, has a name and his story challenges us to believe that every person, no matter how poor, has a dignity and importance in the reign of God. This is a great obstacle to many.
Lazarus reminds people of every generation, social class, race and culture that it is not our accomplishments or wealth that lead us to God, but our humility and love of all creation which save us. Jesus expresses this bluntly. "It’s terribly hard for rich people to get into the kingdom of heaven! In fact, it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to get into God’s kingdom." (Mt 19 23-24) When wealth blinds us to God's will and others' need, we are from the reign of God. Only a change of heart can help us.
Today, pray for anyone you may have dismissed because of their weakness, race or poverty.
How do you understand Jesus when he says that it is terribly hard for rich people to get into heaven?