Who is the Rich Man of Luke 16?
Very few of us can be numbered among the rich and the powerful who have the power to exploit the poor. So how are we to apply to our own lives the readings for the 25th and 26th S undays in Ordinary Time (Cycle C), which are so preoccupied with questions of social justice, wealth and poverty?
These readings remind us that the law of love (see John 15:12; Romans 13:8) means that each of us in some way will be judged by the mercy we show to the poor.
As the rich man learns in the parable of Lazarus — the distance between ourselves and God in the next life may be the distance we put between ourselves and the poor in this life (see Matthew 25:31-46; James 2:8,14-17).
But we also need to hear these readings in context of the Gospel message in recent months. Recall that among the stories we’ve heard is that of the teacher who wanted to know, “Who is my neighbor?” (see L uke 10:25-37) and of the rich fool who tried to store up earthly treasures (see Luke 12:13-21).
We may not be “rich men” or exploiters of the poor, but each of us should take to heart the persistent message of the L iturgy — that what we have and desire to have can separate us from God and our neighbor; that our possessions can come to possess us; that true riches are to be found in sharing what we have with the poor; and that this will gain us what we truly desire — the inheritance of treasure in heaven.