The Gospel of St. Luke – Lesson 11

Lesson 11: Chapter 14-16
The Journey to Jerusalem Continues

Give us the strength to enter through the “narrow door” to Your eternal kingdom.  Give us the will to divest ourselves of those temporal concerns that have no value in Your heavenly realm.  Impress on us the desire to store up righteous deeds that will be the “silver and gold” that will not perish in the purification of Your fiery love but will be recorded in Your Book of Deeds to be recounted at our judgment.  Most of all, Lord, give us the heart of Jesus, to love as He loved.  Send us Your Spirit to guide us in our study of Jesus’ last days of teaching as He continues to call the lost sheep of the house of Israel to repentance and salvation.  We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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Chapter 14

A Pharisee of higher rank than usual invited Jesus to a banquet.  Although he knew their bad intentions, he went with him and ate in their company.  He did not submit to this act of condescension to honor his host.  He rather instructed his fellow gusts by words and miraculous deeds that might lead them to the acknowledgement of the true service even that taught us by the Gospel.  He knew that even against their will he would make them eyewitnesses of his power and his superhuman glory.
St. Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on Luke, Homily 101

Jesus at the Banquet of a Pharisee and Jesus Continues to Teach the Crowds

Jesus scandalized the Pharisees when He ate with tax collectors and sinners as readily as He dined with them (Lk 5:50; 7:36; 11:37; 14:1).  The Pharisees believed that they were righteous and despised those they judged to be “sinners” who were not worthy of God’s love.  To them Jesus declared: “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Lk 5:32; 18:9), and angered the Pharisees further when He proclaimed that, since sin is universal, those who pretended not to need salvation were blind to their own sins (Jn Jn 8:33-36; 9:40-41).  He also went so far as to suggest that while sharing the table with sinners that He was preparing to admit them to the great feast of the Messianic banquet (Lk 15:1-2, 22-23).

In chapters 12 and 13 did you notice a repeated reference to food and meals in Jesus’ sayings and parables?  This trend in His teachings begins after the banquet to which He was invited at the home of a Pharisee that was attended by Pharisees and scribes where Jesus condemned them for their hypocrisy (Luke 11:37-52).  He continues that same trend in chapter 14 after another meal in the home of a leading Pharisee, and He concludes this trend in His teaching with the Parable of the Great Feast:

The repeated mention of “food” in Jesus’ teachings from Luke 12:36 – 14:24
   #1: Luke 12:19    The Parable of the Rich Fool who thought happiness was in  eating the stored abundance of his harvest
   #2: Luke 12:36    The Parable of the Vigilant and Faithful Servants who are  rewarded by their master who serves his servants a banquet at his table
   #3: Luke 12:42    The food allowance the faithful steward is responsible for  distributing
   #4: Luke 12:45    The unfaithful servants who abuse the Master’s table by  eating and getting drunk*
   #5: Luke 13:20-21    The Parable of the Leaven in which a little bit of leaven  makes an abundance of bread
   #6: Luke 13:26    The unrighteous who will claim they ate and drank in the  Lord’s presence
   #7: Luke 13:29    The multitude who will come from the four corners of the  earth to eat at the table in the Kingdom of God
   #8: Luke 14:7-9    The Parable on Proper Conduct at a Banquet
   #9: Luke 14:12-14    Those who invite the poor to a banquet will be blessed
   #10: Luke 14:15-24    The Parable of the Great Feast
Michal E. Hunt Copyright ©  2013

*drunkenness is one of the signs of the O.T. prophets symbolizing rebellion against God and the abuse of His blessings.

Each of these references to food and meals in Jesus’ teachings should make us think of the heavenly “food” “the bread and the wine that becomes the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist.  It is the “food” we are called to humbly eat at the altar that is the Lord’s banquet table but which we must eat with special care so as not to abuse the gift of our divine Master (1 Cor 11:26-29).

Chapter 14 can be divided into two parts:

  1. Jesus’ teaching at the banquet of a leading Pharisee (verses     1-24)
  2. Jesus teaching the crowds of Jews on the demands of     discipleship (verses 25-35)

Luke 14:1-6 ~ A Sabbath healing at the banquet of a Pharisee
1 On the Sabbath he went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and the people there were observing him carefully.  2In front of him there was a man suffering from dropsy.  3 Jesus spoke to the scholars of the law and Pharisees in reply asking, “Is it lawful to cure on the Sabbath or not?”  4 But they in kept silent; so he took the man and, after he had healed him, dismissed him.  5 Then he said to them, “Who among you, if your son or ox falls into a cistern, would not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?”  6 But they were unable to answer his question.

This is the third banquet with the Pharisees and scribes that St. Luke has recorded and the fifth Sabbath healing.

Banquets with the Pharisees and scribes:

  1. When Jesus pardoned the sinful woman (Lk 7:36-50)
  2. When Jesus condemned the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and     scribes (Lk 11:37-53)
  3. When Jesus was invited to a Sabbath meal at the home of a     leading Pharisee (Lk 14:1-6)

Healing on the Sabbath:

  1. Healing a demon possessed man at the Capernaum Synagogue (Lk 4:31-35)
  2. Healing Simon-Peter’s mother-in-law (Lk 4:38-39)
  3. Healing a man with a withered hand (Lk 6:6-10)
  4. Healing the crippled woman (Lk 13:10-17)
  5. Healing the man with dropsy (Lk 14:1-4)

After Jesus’ condemnation of the Pharisees and scribes at the second dinner, they began to act with hostility toward him and to interrogate him about many things, for they were plotting to catch him at something he might say (Lk 11:53-54).  They had also accused Jesus of breaking the Law of Moses by working and healing on the Sabbath and were furious that He defied their correction (Lk 6:2, 11; 13:14-15, 17).

Luke 14:1 On the Sabbath he went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees…
Friends and important guests were often invited to a Sabbath meal after the Synagogue service or the Temple liturgical worship service (seeJn 12:1).  The meal usually took place at noon which was the 6thhour Jewish time and the 12th hour Roman time (Josephus, Life, 54 [279]).  No work could be done on the day of the Sabbath rest, so the meal would have been prepared the day before, on Friday which was called “Preparation Day” for the Sabbath (see Jn 19:31; and Mishnah: Shabbat, 4:1-2 for the regulations for keeping the food warm).

and the people there were observing him carefully.
Jesus had caused controversy by healing on the Sabbath on a number of occasions, so the people were watching Him closely to see if He would heal again on the Sabbath.

Luke 14:2 In front of him there was a man suffering from dropsy.
Dropsy was an abnormal accumulation of fluids in the connective tissues or cavities of the body that caused swelling, distention and pain.
Question: If the Pharisees despised Jesus, why have they invited Him to another dinner and why is the ill man placed in front of Jesus?
Answer: They want to trap Jesus in breaking the Sabbath (according to their interpretation of the Law).

Jesus doesn’t avoid the trap, but uses the healing of the man as another teaching on the correct interpretation of the Law.  Knowing their intentions, Jesus challenges them by asking two questions.  The first question is: “Is it lawful to cure on the Sabbath or not?”(14:3).
Question: Why don’t they answer since this is their opportunity to pronounce their teaching on the Sabbath Law?
Answer: They probably do not want to answer that they believe healing on the Sabbath is a violation of the Law because they want Jesus to heal the man so they can accuse Him.  This is the trap.

After healing the man, Jesus challenges them again by asking them a second question: “Who among you, if your son or ox falls into a cistern, would not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?”
Question: Why don’t they answer Jesus this time?
Answer: If they say they would let their son or ox die, they appear to be heartless and wicked; but if they say they would save their son or an expensive animal even on the Sabbath they are proved to be the hypocrites Jesus has accused them of being.

Luke 14:7-14 ~ A Parable on Proper Conduct at a Banquet
7 He told a parable to those who had been invited, noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table.  8 When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor [lit. = the first couch].  A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him, 9 and the host who invited both of you may reproach you and say,  Give your place to this man,’ and then you would proceed with embarrassment to take the lowest place.  10 Rather, when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say,  My friend, move up to a higher position.’  Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table.  11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” 

Diners at a formal banquet in this period adopted the Greek customs of a symposium, a formal meal where guests recline on couches that are placed around a table.  The placement of the guests was according to the guest’s rank or social status.  Jesus noticed that some of the guests were discerning for themselves their idea of their status within the company by choosing the best seats at the banquet table.  You will recall Jesus has already condemned the Pharisees for their arrogant practice of expecting the best seats in the Synagogues (Lk 11:43).

Luke identifies Jesus’ comments as a parable and not a teaching so we immediately know there is a spiritual teaching associated with this episode.  If St. Luke hadn’t designated this as a parable, it could be mistakenly interpreted as only advice for the guests on proper conduct and humility at a dinner party.  The other hint is that Jesus uses a “wedding” as the occasion in His parable and not an ordinary banquet.  His teaching is also on the wedding banquet of the just in the Kingdom of God.  The “wedding” recalls the prophecy of Israel’s promise of restoration to God’s fellowship in Isaiah 62:4-5.
Question: What is Jesus’ simple teaching point for the banquet guests?
Answer: His advice to the self-righteous Pharisees who are the banquet guests is that they shouldn’t be so arrogant as to choose the highest status location at the table.  They may be embarrassed if the host asks them to choose another seat.

Question: What is His symbolic teaching point concerning seating or position for members of the Kingdom’s wedding banquet?  See Rev 19:4-9 and Jesus’ teaching in Luke 9:48-12:35-37.  Hint: there is an immediate future and an eschatological future teaching that can be applied by this parable.

  1. The immediate future context is the Eucharist “the wedding banquet of Christ and His Bride, the Church which Jesus will inaugurate at the Last Supper.  Those who are invited (the baptized in a state of grace) should humbly and reverently find their place at the “table” of Christ’s altar, not after discerning their “right” and “status” to be there, but by humbly confessing their sins and reverently  submitting them lives to God.  God rewards the humble who are grateful to be invited to the banquet of the Eucharist but not the arrogant who assume that they deserve a place of honor at the Lord’s Table.
    Symbolic Imagery in the Parable of the Wedding Banquet
       The wedding banquet    The Eucharistic banquet
       The host    Jesus Christ
       The guests who seek the places of highest honor    The self-righteous who will be least in the kingdom
       The guest who seeks the lowest seat    The humble who the host will exalt
    Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2013
  2. The eschatological sense of this parable is the Wedding Supper of the Lamb at the end of time as we know it.  At that gathering, attended by all the saints, the places of honor will be given to the most humble servants of the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ.<

Luke 14:12-14 ~ Jesus’ advice to the banquet guests
12 Then he said to the host who invited him, “When you hold a lunch or dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment.  13 Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; 14 blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you.  For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Question: What point is Jesus making for His host who is a leader among the Pharisees?
Answer: It is another teaching on storing up treasure in heaven.  The works of righteousness that God rewards are those in which there is no earthly reward.  Hidden acts of mercy reap eternal rewards.  If His host, who considers himself to be righteous, really wants to be judged as righteous by God and to receive God’s blessings, he will invite those who cannot repay him.

Luke 14:15-24 ~ The Parable of the Great Feast
15 One of his fellow guests on hearing this said to him, “Blessed is the one who will dine [ bread] in the kingdom of God.”  16He replied to him, “A man gave a great dinner to which he invited many.  17 When the time for the dinner came, he dispatched his servant to say to those invited,  Come, everything is now ready.’  18 But one by one, they all began to excuse themselves.  The first said to him,  I have purchased a field and must go to examine it; I ask you, consider me excused.’  19 And another said,  I have purchased five yoke of oxen and am on my way to evaluate them; I ask you, consider me excused.’  20 And another said, I have just married a woman, and therefore I cannot come.’  21 The servant went and reported this to his master.  Then the master of the house in a rage commanded his servant,  Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in here the poor and the crippled, the blind and the lame.’  22The servant reported,  Sir, your orders have been carried out and still there is room.’  23 The maser then said to the servant,  Go out to the highways and hedgerows and make people come in that my home may be filled.  24For, I tell you, none of those men who were invited will taste my dinner.'”
[..] = literal translation (IBGE, vol. IV, page 210).

This is the tenth meal/food teaching.  A member at the dinner party, perhaps feeling that Jesus has just insulted the host and wishing to defend him may be suggesting that the host is blessed because surely he is among those who are destined to “eat bread” (literal translation)  in the kingdom of God.

Question: For what reason might a Pharisee believe that his destiny is secure in that regard?
Answer: They judged themselves as “righteous” because of their strict adherence to the Law of Moses, and as descendants of Abraham they judged themselves as the heirs of God’s covenant promises.

You will recall that St. John the Baptist warned the Jews about such misplaced confidence in Luke 3:7-9 and St. Paul will write on the same subject in Galatians 3:27-29.  The Jews understood from the teachings of Moses that obedience to the Law was the “path of life” (Dt 15-20).  But Jesus taught that they had come to interpret the Law so rigidly as to neglect the spirit of the Law which was God’s love expressed in His mercy and compassion (Lk 11:42).  The Jews also understood the promise of the banquet in God’s holy Kingdom for the righteous as opposed to the wicked who would suffer judgment (i.e.,Is 25:6-9; 65:13-17).

Jesus picks up on the man’s reference to the “blessed” dinning in the Kingdom and tells a parable about the eschatological banquet at the end of time.  In the symbolic nature of the parable, the host is God and His servants are the prophets.
Question: In Jesus’ parable how many groups are invited by God, who is the host, to the heavenly banquet?
Answer: There are three groups:

  1. Those who had already been invited to the banquet.
  2. Those who were the dispossessed “the poor, the crippled,     the blind, and the lame.
  3. Those who were not within the community but were     “outsiders.”

Question: In the parable, the host (God) has been preparing a banquet to which the first group knew they were going to be invited.  They did not appreciate the great honor and were not ready when the invitation came through the host’s (God’s) servants (the prophets like John the Baptist).  The first group of original invitees had what kinds of excuses when the invitation arrived?  Who does the first group represent symbolically?  SeeMt 3:7-12; Lk 7:30.
Answer: The first group is composed of the “righteous” descendants of Abraham “the religiously observant Jews who should have been the first to recognize the “invitation” through God’s prophets.  They are likely represented by the Pharisees, scribes and Sadducees.  However, their earthly/material concerns for possessions and personal relationships caused each to put their interest in these things before God and so they decline the invitation.  These are the Jews who rejected St. John’s baptism of repentance in preparation for the coming Kingdom proclaimed by the Messiah.

Question: Why was the host/God angry when the first group refused His invitation?
Answer: Ever since the call of Abraham, it had been the destiny of Abraham’s descendants through his son Isaac to move forward God’s plan for mankind’s salvation and to be a world-wide blessing.  In refusing their “invitation” by their failure to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah, the Jewish leadership was rejecting God’s destiny for them as a people.

Question: To whom did the host/God instruct his servants/the prophets to extend the invitation after the first group declined to repent their sins in St. John’s invitation to prepare for the Kingdom and the banquet? See Mt 21:31-32; Lk 3:12; 7:29-30; Is 25:4; 26:9; 35:5-6; 61:1-2.
Answer: The invitation was extended to four different kinds of people who represented the disadvantaged and dispossessed, like the tax collectors and sinners who gratefully received St. John’s baptism of repentance and Jesus’ gift of healing and restoration.  The servants are Jesus and His disciples who are preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom.

According to secular documents of the community that lived at Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in caves above the community, the physically imperfect like the blind, lame, and cripples were excluded from serving at the altar of the Temple were also to be excluded from the final eschatological battle and the banquet at the end of time.  The Qumran community existed during Jesus’ lifetime and ceased to exist after 68 AD.  Theirs was obviously a teaching that Jesus did not embrace.

Luke 14:23 The master then said to the servant,  Go out to the highways and hedgerows and make people come in that my home may be filled.  24For, I tell you, none of those men who were invited will taste my dinner.'”
Question: Since there is still more room at the banquet, what is the third group to whom God’s servants extend the invitation of grace and eternal salvation “even though this group did not expect to be invited?  See Is 66:18-21; Acts 9:15; 11:1; 13:46-47.
Answer: The third group is not part of the community as were the first two groups.  They are outsiders.  This third invitation symbolizes the evangelization of the Gentile nations of the earth by the servants of the Son of God.

As Sts. Paul and Barnabas said to the Jews in Acts of Apostles: “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first, but since you reject it and condemn yourselves as unworthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us,  I have made you a light to the Gentiles, that you may be an instrument of salvation to the ends of the earth.'”  In Acts 13:47 Paul quotes from Isaiah 49:6 from the Septuagint translation in which God’s plan to call the Gentile nations to salvation is already announced in the 8th century BC.  It was God’s plan for His “firstborn son,” Israel (Ex 4:22), to extend His gift of salvation to the “younger brothers” of the nations of the earth.  It was Israel’s mission to be God’s light and a world-wide blessing (promised to Abraham’s descendants in Gen 12:3; 22:18) to the other nations of the earth, but when the majority of the Jews rejected that mission, God used the faithful remnant of Jews who were Jesus’ disciples and Apostles to invite the Gentiles into the New Covenant in Christ.

The Parable of the Great Feast
   The host of the banquet    God
   His home    The heavenly Kingdom
   The banquet    The banquet of the righteous at the end of time
   The servants    God’s prophets
   The first invited guests    The people of the Old Covenant (Jews)
   The second group of  invited guests    The disadvantaged Jews who were the outcasts
   The third group of invited guests    The Gentiles who have been outside the covenant but are now included
Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2013

The banquet episode is concluded and Jesus is again teaching the crowds.  The next two teachings are about one’s commitment to discipleship.

Luke 14:25-33 ~ Sayings on the commitment of discipleship
25 Great crowds were traveling with him, and he turned and addressed them, 26 “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.  27 Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.  28 Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion?  29 Otherwise, after laying the foundation and finding himself unable to finish the work the onlookers should laugh at him 30 and say,  This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.’  31 Or what king marching into battle would not first sit down and decide whether with ten thousand troops he can successfully oppose another king advancing upon him with twenty thousand troops?  32 But if not, while he is still far away, he will send a delegation to ask for peace terms.  33 In the same way, everyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.

Verse 26 has to be read in light of Jesus’ other teachings in which a commitment to love “even our enemies (Lk 6:27) “is a requirement of discipleship.  In this teaching Jesus uses exaggeration (“hating”) to stress the total commitment required of the men and women who take up the path of discipleship.  Jesus is asking for a complete detachment from the old life that might in any way compromise the priority of one’s commitment to Jesus and His Kingdom, the Church; and that includes attachments to personal relationships and material possessions.  It is similar to the teachings He gave in Luke 9:23-24 and 57-62. This teaching also recalls His warning concerning the division He is bringing to families where some will reject His Gospel and others will embrace His promise of new life and eternal gifts (Lk 12:49-53).

Question: What two examples of the importance of considering what the “cost” of discipleship will be before taking up the mission does Jesus use?
Answer: He gives the example of building a tower and a king waging war, efforts that require planning and good decision making.

Luke 14:33 In the same way, everyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.
In the same way that building a tower and a king waging war requires good decision making and strategies for success, the disciple has to take into account anything in his old life that is a hindrance to traveling the narrow path and entering the narrow door to eternal salvation.  He must divest himself of those things or people who will not help him advance in faith and spiritual maturity, especially the attachment to material possessions that encourage reliance on self and not dependence on God.

Luke 14:34-35 ~ The commitment of a disciple compared to salt
34 “Salt is good, but if salt itself loses its taste, with what can its flavor be restored?  35 It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure file; it is thrown out.  Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear.”
This teaching illustrates the condition of the person who is not able to demonstrate total commitment and dedication to discipleship that Jesus called for in the previous teaching.  Salt for daily use came from the Dead Sea region and contained many minerals in addition to the valuable salt.  Over time the salt could lose its flavor and was no longer valuable as a seasoning or preservative.

Question: How is salt that lost it flavor like a disciple whose dedication is only half-hearted?
Answer: A half-hearted disciple is like salt that has lost its flavor in that he cannot fulfill the purpose for which he was intended.

Chapter 15:  Three Parables about God’s Mercy

St. Luke did not idly present three parables in a row… The mercy of the divine act is the same, but the grace differs according to our merits.  The weary sheep is recalled by the shepherd, the coin which was lost is found, the son retraces his steps to his father and returns, guilty of error but totally repentant.
St. Ambrose, Exposition of the Gospel of Luke, 7.208

In chapter 15 Jesus gives three parable teachings to the crowds concerning God’s patience and mercy in calling sinners to salvation by using common examples of daily life.  In each of the parables He also answers the criticism of the Pharisees who accuse Him of associating with sinners.  The parable are: the Parable of the Lost Sheep (Lk 15:3-8), the Parable of the Lost Coin (Lk 15:8-10), and the Parable of the Lost Son (Lk 15:11-32).  Of these three parables St. Ambrose writes: By the parables of the sheep that strayed and was found, the coin which was lost and was found, and the son who was dead and came to life, we may cure our wounds, being encouraged by a threefold remedy.  “A threefold cord will not be broken.”  Who are the father, the shepherd and the woman?  They are God the Father, Christ and the Church.  Christ carries you on his body, he who took your sins on himself.  The Church seeks and the Father receives.  The shepherd carries.  The mother searches, the father clothes.  First mercy comes, then intercession, and third reconciliation.  Each complements the other.  The Savior rescues, the Church intercedes, and the Creator reconciles (Ambrose, Exposition of the Gospel of Luke, 7.207-8).

Luke 15:1-7 ~ The Parable of the Lost Sheep
1 The tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to him, 2 but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”  3 So to them he addressed this parable.  4 “What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?  5And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy 6 and upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them,  Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’  7 I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.”

The tax collectors and sinners who were drawing near to hear Jesus and the Pharisees who began to complain are representative of groups one and two in the Parable of the Great Feast and are at the center of this teaching.  The Pharisees complaint “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them” is a repeat of what they said in Luke 5:30.  This parable makes use of another of the reoccurring symbolic images of the Old Testament prophets “domesticated animals (see handout 2 from Luke Lesson 10).  In the Old Testament imagery, God is the Shepherd of the flock that is His covenant people.  One of the best examples of this imagery is found in Ezekiel chapter 34 where God promises to shepherd His people and restore them to Himself:  For thus says the Lord GOD: I myself will look after and tend my sheep.  As a shepherd tends his flock when he finds himself among his scattered sheep, so will I tend my sheep.  I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered when it was cloudy and dark.  I will lead them out from among the peoples and gather them from the foreign lands … (Ez 34:11-13a).  It is in that same passage that God declares: I will appoint one shepherd over them to pasture them, my servant David; he shall pasture them and be their shepherd.  I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them.  I the LORD, have spoken (Ez 34:23-24).  Since this prophecy was made in the 6th century BC and King David lived in the late 11thcentury BC to early 10th century BC, the prophecy is speaking of a Davidic descendant.  

Question: Who is the fulfillment of the prophecy in Ezekiel of the Davidic prince who God will send to shepherd His people?  What did Jesus say was His mission in Matthew 10:6 and 15:24?  Symbolically who is the shepherd in this parable?  Also see Mt 1:1 and Jn 10:11-16.
Answer: It is the same answer to all three questions “Jesus son of David, Son of God.  Jesus is the fulfillment of that prophecy to gather back the lost sheep of Israel ” He is the Good Shepherd (Jn 10:11-16) who lays down His life for His sheep.

Symbolic Imagery of the Parable of the Lost Sheep (Lk 15:1-7)
   The lost sheep    Sinners
   The sheep fold    The covenant community of the Church
   The shepherd    Jesus Christ who went in search of the “lost sheep” of the house of Israel
Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2013

Question: In this teaching, what comparison does Jesus make between God the Son and a shepherd and between the lost sheep and sinners?
Answer: God cares about all the sheep in His flock and when one becomes lost, like a lost sinner, God, like any good shepherd, makes every effort to return that one to the fold.  And when that one sinner is restored to the covenant community, God rejoices in his restoration.

Luke 15:7 I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.

Question: Why is there more joy over the repentant sinner?  See CCC 545.
Answer: There is already joy over the others who are saved, but the salvation of every lost sinner is a victory for the Kingdom in which all the flock can rejoice.  The whole purpose of Jesus’ Passion was to sacrifice His life for sinners.

Luke 15:8-10 ~ The Parable of the Lost Coin
8 “Or what woman having ten coins [drachma] and losing one would not light a lamp and sweep the house, searching carefully until she finds it?  9 And when she does find it, she calls together her friends and neighbors and says to them,  Rejoice with me because I have found the coin that I lost.’  10 In just the same way, I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

A drachma was Greek silver coin.  The message of the teaching is the same as the Parable of the Lost Sheep “God’s concern for the lost sinner and His desire that none should perish: This is good and pleasing to God our savior, who wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:3-4; also see 1 Pt 3:9).

Question: How does this parable define the mission of Mother Church?
Answer: It is the mission of Mother Church to cherish her children and to keep them within the fold of the covenant family “not willing that any should be lost to sin.

The Symbolic Imagery of the Parable of the Lost Coin (Lk 15:8-10)
   The woman    Mother Church
   The collection of coins    The community of the faithful
   The lost coin    The lost sinner
Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2013

Luke 15:11-32 ~ The Parable of the Lost Son 
11 Then he said, “a man had two sons, 12 and the younger son said to his father,  Father, give me the share of your estate that should come to me.”  So the father divided the property between them.  13 After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings and set off to a distant country where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation.  14 When he had freely spent everything, a severe famine struck that country and he found himself in dire need.  15 So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens who sent him to his farm to tend the swine.  16 And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed, but nobody gave him any.  17 Coming to his senses he thought,  How many of my father’s hired workers have more than enough food to eat, but here am I, dying from hunger.  18 I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.  19 I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.”  20 So he got up and went back to his father.  While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion.  He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.  21 His son said to him,  Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son.’  22But his father ordered his servants,  Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.  23 Take the fattened calf and slaughter it.  Then let us celebrate with a feast, 24because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.’  Then the celebration began.25 Now the older son had been out in the field and, on his way back, as he neared the house, he heard sound of music and dancing.  26 He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean.  27 The servant said to him,  Your brother has returned and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’  28 He became angry, and when he refused to enter the house, his father came out and pleaded with him.  29 He said to his father in reply,  Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends.  29 But when you son returns who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf.’  31 He said to him,  My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours.  32 But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.'”

This is the third parable in the series of teachings on the mercy and patience of God.  Verses 1-3 set the stage: Jesus is teaching the crowds of Jews who have come to hear Him preach and to see Him work miracles.  Tax collectors (who served the Roman authorities and were despised by the common people) and other sinners were drawing near to hear Jesus teach.  The Pharisees (the most influential religious party in Judea) and the scribes (the teachers of the Law) were high status members of Jewish society who considered themselves to be among the “righteous” and interpreted the Scriptures and the Law very rigidly, often neglecting to follow the example of God’s mercy and justice (11:39-52).  They criticized Jesus for His interaction with what they considered to be the dregs of society.  Jews were expected to keep themselves ritually clean and fit for worship by avoiding anything that might transmit ritual uncleanness “unlike those who were acknowledged “unclean” sinners not fit to enter the Temple and offer God sacrifice and worship.  This is not the first time this group of self-professed “righteous” Jews have criticized Jesus for the kind of company He keeps.  The same complaint was made of Him in Luke 5:30.

The Parable of the Lost Son is only found in the Gospel of St. Luke.  It is also called the Parable of the Two Sons and the Parable of the Prodigal (wasteful) Son.  However, a better title is probably the “Parable of the Merciful Father” since the father’s mercy is the focus of the story and he is the pivotal figure.  This parable is an answer to the Pharisees’ criticism of Jesus’ interest in sinners and is an insightful commentary on human conduct, illustrating the conflict between free-will and responsibility, estrangement and family love, and the theme of forgiveness and reconciliation.  But above all, the parable teaches the gift of divine forgiveness to a lost sinner “the kind of people who were seeking Jesus and the restoration He promised to those who repented and accepted the coming of His Kingdom.

In verse11 Jesus begins His parable with the statement: “a man had two sons …” He begins by setting the contrast in the story between the character of the two sons “the younger son who left because he thought he wanted the absolute freedom to live as he wished without any obligations except to himself and the elder son, the father’s heir, who dutifully served the father and stayed at home. The parable is divided into two parts: the estrangement of the younger son followed by his return and reconciliation with the father (verses 11-24), and the elder son’s anger when his brother returns (verses 25-31).  As in all Jesus’ parables, the elements of the story are symbolic and point to Jesus’ teaching on our relationship with God and His kingdom and the estrangement caused by sin.  Each of the people in the parable represents what is greater than the story presents:

  Symbolic comparisons in the Parable of the Lost Son (Lk 15:11-32)
   the loving father    God the Father
   the father’s home    the “kingdom” of the Old Covenant Church/Temple
   the distant country    the secular world
   the elder son    the religiously observant Jews
   the younger son    the repentant sinner and
the estranged Gentile nations of the world
Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2013

In Exodus 4:22 Moses is instructed by God to tell the Egyptian Pharaoh: “Israel is my firstborn son.”  The people of the Sinai Covenant were collectively the “sons/daughters of God” (in Ex 4:22 the word “son” is in the singular as in Wis 18:13).
Question: If Israel’s status is God’s first-born son in the human family, then what are the peoples of the other nations of the earth?
Answer: If Israel is God’s “first born son” that makes all other members of the human family the younger sons.

In the story the father extends his love to both sons in the same way Father God extends his love to sinners and to His sons and daughters in covenant fellowship with Him.  In the parable the father continues to show his love toward the angry older son (symbolically the Jews) despite the elder son’s criticism of the father’s decision to welcome back his brother (symbolically the Gentile nations) into the family.  The parable stresses God’s willingness to accept all repentant sinners into His kingdom.  As Luke mentioned in 7:29-30:…tax collectors and sinners who were baptized with the baptism of  John [the Baptist] acknowledged the righteousness of God; but the Pharisees and scholars of the law [scribes], who were not baptized by him, rejected the plan of God for themselves.  And as Jesus taught in Luke 13:30: Look, there are those now last who will be first, and those now first who will be last, referring to the Jews who were the first to hear the good news of salvation but who will be preceded into the kingdom by the Gentiles who embrace Jesus as Lord and Savior.

The younger son also embodies man of every age, beginning with Adam who was the first to distain his “Father’s” gifts to run after what His Father told him to avoid, losing the inheritance of grace and original justice.  In fact, as Pope John Paul II wrote, “The parable indirectly touches upon every aspect of the breach in covenant love, every loss of grace and every sin” (Dives in misericordia, 5).

Do not miss the significance that the younger son tended swine.  Swine were unclean animals and association with them was strictly forbidden for a member of the Sinai Covenant according to the Law (Lev 11:7; Dt 14:8).
Question: What is the significance in the story that the younger son was willing to tend swine?
Answer: That he was willing to tend swine shows how far the younger son had traveled from the Law of God’s covenant with Israel and the depths to which he had sunk into sin in his personal life.

The younger son’s anxiety, hunger, and homelessness are the result of his rebellion and enslavement to sin (Rom 1:25; 6:6; Gal 5:1) by which he has lost the freedom of being a beloved son of his father to become one whose sin has placed him under the power of Satan (Rom 8:21; Gal 4:31; 5:13).
Question: In contrast to the unclean swine, what does the fatted calf his father offers in celebration of his younger son’s return symbolize?
Answer: By contrast, the fatted calf the father offers upon his son’s return symbolizes the restoration of communion with the father and the father’s household in the same way a repentant sinner is restored to God’s family in the Sacrament of the Eucharist within the household of the Church.

The Pharisees and scribes to whom Jesus is directing His parable are displaying the same anger and unwillingness to welcome back the repentant sinners to whom Jesus’ extends His mercy and forgiveness like the elder brother who will not welcome back his younger sibling.  In addition, there is another comparison that can be made to the Jews of the Old Covenant who jealously guarded that status as “firstborn sons” in refusing to welcome their “younger brothers” of the Gentile nations into the New Covenant in Christ Jesus (see verses 29-30).  The father in the parable manifests his love for the elder, upright son (symbolic of the Jews of the Sinai Covenant), but he reminds his elder son and heir that the younger son must be restored to the family and his restoration must be celebrated in the communion meal.  It is a subtle warning Jesus gives His kinsmen of the Old Covenant faith that they must be prepared to welcome the repentant “younger brothers” of the Gentile nations into the Kingdom He has come to establish.

In the parable the elder son has to make a decision “will he accept the father’s rebuke and welcome his younger brother back into communion with the family, or will he reject his younger brother and harm his relationship with his father?  We are not told what decision the elder brother made, but we know that many of the Jews rejected the Divine Father’s plan for the restoration of the human family in Jesus’ Gospel message of salvation.  St. Paul wrote: For through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus.  For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendant, heirs according to the promise (Gal 3:26-29).

Chapter 16: Jesus Continues to Teach in Parables

Let those of us who possess earthly wealth open our hearts to those who are in need.  Let us show ourselves faithful and obedient to the laws of God.  Let us be followers of our Lord’s will in those things that are from the outside and not our own.  Let us do this so that we may receive what is our own, that holy and admirable beauty that God forms in people’s souls, making them like himself, according to what we originally were. 
St. Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on Luke, Homily 109

Two of the teachings in this chapter deal with the use or abuse of money/wealth (16:1-13 and 16:19-31).  They are separated by a condemnation of the Pharisees for their love of money and two other teachings about the Law.  The focus of final teaching about wealth is the inevitable judgment of the rich for their lack of compassion for the poor.  The first teaching on money/wealth is directed to His disciples.

Luke 16:1-8a ~ The Parable of the Dishonest but Crafty Steward
1 Then he also said to his disciples, “A rich man had a steward who was reported to him for squandering his property.  2 He summoned him and said,  What is this I hear about you?  Prepare a full account of your stewardship, because you can no longer be my steward.’  3 The steward said to himself,  What shall I do, now that my master is taking the position of steward away from me?  I am not strong enough to dig and I am ashamed to beg.  4 I know what I shall do so that, when I am removed from the stewardship, they may welcome me into their homes.’  5 He called in his master’s debtors one by one.  To the first he said,  How much do you owe my master?’  6 He replied,  One hundred measures of olive oil.’  He said to him,  Here is your promissory note.  Sit down and quickly write one for fifty.’  7 Then to another he said,  And you, how much do you owe?’  He replied,  One hundred kors of wheat.’  He said to him,  Here is your promissory note; write one for eighty.’  8 And the master commended that dishonest steward for acting prudently.” (1)

The interpretation of this parable looks to the figurative meaning of the whole parable and not for the individual parts.  In Jesus’ story the steward was a freeman who earned his living by the additional revenue he could add to the bill of the money owed his master.  He was not cheating his master by dropping the sum that each of the creditors owed; he was simply reducing his commission, in some cases probably eliminating his cut completely.  At this point in his life, he realized that his master’s creditors’ gratitude and friendship was more valuable to him than money.

Jesus is not praising the steward’s dishonesty.  It was because he misused the master’s property that he is being dismissed, and Jesus does not praise that action; but what He does draw our attention to the good deeds the steward does in order to win friends who will help him in his hour of need.  Admittedly it is an action that is self-serving, but it does not defraud his master.
Question: Why did the master praise his effort?
Answer: The master admired his quick thinking in ingratiating himself to the creditors and transferring their debt to him from money to a personal obligation generated by his mercy to them in reducing their debt.

Luke 16:8b-13 ~ Jesus’ teaching on the parable and the right use of money
8b “For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.  9 I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth [literally“the mammon of iniquity”], so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.  10 The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small maters is also dishonest in great ones.  11 If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will trust you with true wealth?  12 If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another, who will give you what is yours?  13 No servant can serve two masters.  He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and mammon.”

Jesus expands on His parable by encouraging the prudent use of one’s wealth.  He is not recommending that the disciples act as the dishonest steward did, but that they practice his foresight and ingenuity by using the temporal things of this world which are not ours and will pass away to purchase for ourselves those things which are eternal and will not pass away.  Notice that Jesus uses a series of parallels/contrasts in His teaching:

Question: What are the parallels/contrasts in Luke 16:8b-13?

  Parallels/contrasts in Luke 16:8b-13
  children of this world  –>  children of light
  dishonest  –>  eternal dwellings
  trustworthy in small maters   –>   trustworthy in great
  dishonest in small matters  –>  dishonest in great
  dishonest wealth –>   true wealth
  mammon  –>  God
Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2013

“Mammon” in verses 9 and 13 means wealth or money.(2)  Money is called “dishonest” because often it has been acquired dishonestly even before passing into the hands of someone who is honest.  Money should be used with eternal benefits in mind rather than temporal.  It is the eternal value of the deed that will welcome one into heaven.

Question: Who are the “children of this world” and who are the “children of light”?  What was the crafty steward?  See Jn 8:12.
Answer: The crafty steward is a “child of this world.”  The “children of light” with their “other worldly” concerns are in contrast to the “children of the world” who are invested in the material rather than the spiritual.  The disciples of Jesus Christ (Christians) are the “children of light” while the “children of this world” are those who do not profess Christ as Lord and Savior.

Question: Why does Jesus say the “children of the world” are more prudent in dealing with their contemporaries than are Christians?  What does He suggest Christians can learn?
Answer: Jesus’ point is that the faithful should be prudent about the use of wealth just as the crafty steward (a child of this world) was prudent.  Wealth will not buy friends, only generosity results in true friendship.  In the same way, if we know God’s friendship and blessings are given to those who are generous and show mercy to the poor, shouldn’t we be clever enough to realize what actions of mercy and compassion in using our material wealth will benefit us eternally?

Luke 16:11-12 If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will trust you with true wealth?  12 If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another, who will give you what is yours? 

Question: Who is it who judges those who are not trustworthy with “dishonest wealth” and will not trust those persons with “true wealth”?  See Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain in Lk 6:20-26.
Answer: Earthly blessings including wealth/riches are from God.  From those blessings we are required to care for the poor and disadvantaged.  If we cannot be trusted in the matters of sharing our earthly wealth, Jesus asks the question, why should God trust us with the wealth/riches of eternal life?  God has the power to judge the souls of human beings and the power to determine their eternal destiny.

In the material world, anyone who is “untrustworthy in very small things” is also viewed as “untrustworthy in great ones;” and the person who is “dishonest in very small matters” is also viewed as someone who is “dishonest in great ones.”  Therefore, why should it be different in God’s assessment of a person’s life?  If God cannot trust us to use the material wealth that He has generously given us wisely, and if we cannot be trusted to share it with the poor, how can we be trusted with “true wealth”?

Question: What to God is the “true wealth” in verse 11?
Answer: The gift of God’s grace that leads to eternal life.

Luke 16:13 No servant can serve two masters.  He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and mammon.”

This verse is the summary of Jesus’ teaching on this subject.  You cannot be disorderly attracted to material wealth and also be a servant of God.  The two callings oppose each other.  You are either God’s servant or a slave to riches.  The love of money will turn money/wealth into a false god.  To be dependent on riches is opposed to the teachings of Jesus who asks for complete dependence on God as the chief characteristic of Christian discipleship.

Luke 16:14-15 ~ The Pharisees and money
14 The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all these things and sneered at him.  15 And he said to them, “You justify yourselves in the sight of others, but God knows your hearts; for what is of human esteem is an abomination in the sight of God.”

Question: Why do the Pharisees sneer at Jesus’ teaching on wealth?  How does their reaction tie into to Jesus previous teaching?
Answer: The Pharisees are an example of those who are slaves of wealth and “children of this world” because they “loved money.”  It is for this reason that they sneer at Jesus’ teaching and consequently are not able to truly serve God; in fact Jesus says that they are “an abomination in the sight of God” because of their disordered attraction to wealth and social position.

Luke 16:16-18 ~ Teachings on the Law of Moses and divorce
16 “The law and the prophets lasted until John; but from then on the kingdom of God is proclaimed, and everyone who enters does so with violence.  17 It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for the smallest part of a letter of the law to become invalid. 18 Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and the one who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.”

John the Baptist is the last of the Old Testament prophets, and he is the transitional figure between the Old and New Covenants.  He continued where the last Old Testament prophet, Malachi, left off and fulfills Malachi’s last prophecies (Mal 3:1-3, 23/4:4).  With John, Jesus says, what was promised by the Moses and the prophets is coming to fulfillment.

Luke 16:16b …but from then on the kingdom of God is proclaimed, and everyone who enters does so with violence.

There are several interpretations of the meaning of “violence” in this passage:

  • The praiseworthy self-sacrifice and suffering of those who are willing to risk all for the sake of the Kingdom.
  • The wicked violence of the powers of evil and their agents who seek to maintain their positions of power and to fight the advance of the Kingdom.
  • The Kingdom of heaven is being established despite all obstacles, even the violence done to the faithful.

The Law does not become invalid with the coming of Christ, but certain parts of the Law will be fulfilled, like the requirements for ritual purity and animal sacrifice.  These Jesus will fulfill on the altar of the Cross (Mt 5:18; Jn 19:30) as well as fulfilling the requirements of the Old Covenant which have served its purpose as a tutor and a guide to God’s people for the coming of the Messiah.  With the establishment of Christ’s Kingdom, the Old Covenant with its temporal blessings and promise of salvation is to be replaced with the New Covenant that brings eternal blessings and salvation through Christ Jesus (Heb 8:6-13; 10:1-10; CCC 1962-65).  However, the moral law found in the Ten Commandments and most of the other laws associated with the moral law will remain, like the laws associated with divorce and adultery.  Moses allowed divorce because of the hard hearts of the people (Dt 24:1-4); Jesus corrects that amendment to the law by restating God’s definition of the Law concerning marriage in this passage and in Matthew 19:3-9.(3)  God is the author of marriage and Jesus raised marriage to a Sacrament of the Church; see CCC 1638-40.

Question: What does Jesus give as the only condition for dissolving a marital union in Matthew 19:9?
Answer: In cases where the marriage is declared unlawful, an annulment can be granted.

Luke 16:19-31 ~ The Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man
19 “There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day.  20 And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table.  Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.  22 When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham.  The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.  24And he cried out,  Father Abraham, have pity on me.  Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.’  25 Abraham replied,  My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented.  26 Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from our side to ours.’  27 He said,  Then I beg you, father, send him to my father’s house, 28 for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment.  29 But Abraham replied,  They have Moses and the prophets.  Let them listen to them.’ 30 He said,  Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’  31 Then Abraham said,  If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.'”

This parable illustrates Jesus’ concern for justice and is a reflection of His blessings for the poor and His judgment of the cold hearted rich in His Sermon on the Plain (Lk 6:20-26).  The man Lazarus in this story is not the same Lazarus who is the brother of Martha and Mary.  This man is a homeless beggar who after his death resides on the righteous side of Sheol while the brother of Martha and Mary lived in Bethany and was resurrected by Jesus.  That the rich man wore purple cloth is a sign of his great wealth.  Purple cloth was the most expensive textiles available in the ancient world.  The dye came from a tiny sea mollusk.  Only the wealthiest individuals could afford cloth dyed purple, which is why it was the color of the garments of kings and rulers.

“Abraham’s bosom” in verse 22 was what the righteous part/state of Sheol was called in Jesus’ time.   Sheol was divided into the waiting place of the righteous and the place of punishment and purification for sinners.  CCC 633: Scripture calls the abode of the dead, to which the dead Christ went down, “hell” “Sheol in Hebrew or Hades in Greek “because those who are there are deprived of the vision of God.  Such is the case for all the dead, whether evil or righteous, while they await the redeemer: which does not mean that their lot is identical, as Jesus shows through the parable of the poor man Lazarus who was received into “Abraham’s bosom”:  “It is precisely these holy souls, who awaited their Savior in Abraham’s bosom, whom Christ the Lord delivered when he descended into hell” (Roman Catechism I, 6, 3).  Jesus did not descend into hell to deliver the damned, nor to destroy the hell of damnation, but to free the just who had gone before him. As St. Peter wrote: For Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God.  Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the spirit.  In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison, who had once been disobedient while God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the ark, in which a few persons, eight in all, were saved through water … 4:6 For this is why the Gospel was preached even to the dead that, though condemned in the flesh in human estimation, they might live in the spirit in the estimation of God (1 Pt 3:18-20; 4:6).

Question: What is the contrast and what is ironic about the two men’s condition in Seol?
Answer: The contrast in this parable is between the rich man who had everything he could possible want in life and Lazarus, a poor man who had nothing.  Ironically when both men died, their conditions were reversed.

God gave poor Lazarus justice in Sheol (Hades in the Greek), the abode of the dead into which all men and women went before the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.  The rich man suffered in torment for his sins while Lazarus received the justice he lacked in life as he awaited the coming of the Messiah in the company of the just.  It is a reversal of condition that Jesus uses to serve as a warning to the Pharisees and others in the crowd who despise and neglect the poor and afflicted while loving money.

Question: What petition does the rich man make to the spirit of Abraham, the father of the covenant people?
Answer: His request is that Abraham sends Lazarus to warn his brothers to mend their ways so that they will not die and find themselves in the same torment in which he finds himself.

However, Abraham denies his petition …But Abraham replied,  They have Moses and the prophets.  Let them listen to them.’

Question: What did Abraham mean when he told the rich man that his brothers had Moses and the prophets to teach them the path to righteousness?  Weren’t they long since dead?
Answer: The reference is to the Sacred Scriptures written by Moses and the prophets that teach the path to righteousness and salvation.

Question: The rich man tires again to petition Abraham, saying that his brothers would believe someone who returned from the dead to warn them.  What is Abraham’s reply in the parable and why is his reply ironic?
Answer: In the parable Abraham tells the rich man if his brothers won’t listen to Moses and the Prophets (in Scripture), they will also not listen to someone who had been raised from the dead.  The irony is that Jesus fulfills the prophecies of Moses and the prophets; He will arise from the dead and yet many will still refuse to believe.

  Symbolic Significance of the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man
   The rich man    The wealthy who  abuse God’s blessings when they ignore the plight of the poor
   Poor Lazarus    The poor and  disadvantaged of the world
   Sheol/Hades    The condition of  divine judgment and purification
   Abraham    The hereditary  father of the Old Covenant people and a symbol of the blessings and wisdom of  the just
Michal E. Hunt Copyright ©  2013

Question: Why is it the only the name of poor Lazarus is given in the parable?  Why is the rich man’s name not recorded?  Rev 20:11-15.
Answer: It is a warning.  Just as the names of the righteous are recorded and remembered in the Book of Life and the Deeds in the heavenly Sanctuary, Lazarus’ name is remembered in Sacred Scripture.  However, just as the rich man’s name is not recorded in the Gospel parable, the names those who abuse God’s material blessings and do not have mercy on the poor and disadvantaged will not be recorded or remembered.

Since Christ had not yet come into His glory by His resurrection from the dead, the rich man in the parable would have still had the opportunity of eternal salvation.  In Sheol he and sinners like him were being purified of their sins (Wis 3:1-12).  The rich man was not totally lost because he still had love and concern for the sins of his brothers (those consigned to the Hell of the damned are completely cut off from God and feel no love).  All those in Sheol “the sinners who were being purified by the fiery love of God and the righteous “had the opportunity to hear the Gospel of salvation preached by Jesus when He descended the dead from His tomb.  At that time He took those purified souls into the realm of His heavenly kingdom (1 Pt 3:18-20; 4:6; CCC 631-35).

Sheol/Hades will exist as a place/state of purification until the Last Judgment (Rev 20:14).  In the Final Age of man, blessings are eternal and so are judgments so Sheol/Hades no longer holds either the pure souls of the righteous, nor does it hold the souls of the wicked who deny Christ and His gift of salvation.  Sheol remains a place/state of purification for those souls judged worthy of salvation but who still need purification of unconfessed venial sins or mortal sins that have been forgiven but for which full penance has not been made before being released into the presence of God (1 Cor 3:12-15).  Catholics call this place Purgatory “the “place of purification” (CCC 1030-32).

Questions for reflection or group discussion:
Question: What do you see as your obligations concerning your material blessings according to Jesus’ teachings?  See Mt 23:31-46.
Question: What is the fifth precept of the Church and do you observe this covenant obligation?  See CCC 1351, 1387, 1438, 2043.
Question: What does the passage in Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 3:30/33 tell you about almsgiving?
Question: What did Jesus teach about almsgiving and why in Mt 6:1-4.
Question: What did St. Paul mean when He said “the love of money is the root of all evil?”  See 1 Tim 6:10.  What is the key word in that quote?
Question: What was the sin of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11)?


1.  One hundred measures, literally one hundred baths, is a     Hebrew unit of liquid measure equal to eight or nine gallons. A kor is a     Hebrew unit of dry measure for grain or wheat.  One hundred kor is about     equal to ten to twelve bushels.

2.  “Mammon” is the Latin word that is derived from the     Aramaic manon, meaning material wealth/money; it is found in Jesus’     teachings on the abuse of earthly riches in Matthew 6:19-21, 24; Luke 16:6, 11 and 13.

3.  The Hebrew wording in Moses’ amendment to the Law allowing     a man to divorce his wife on the grounds of “something indecent” was a vague     term that allowed a wide interpretation that could be anything from     adultery to poor hygiene (Dt 24:1).  One wonders if Moses allowed the evil     of divorce in order to prevent what he considered a greater evil.  Perhaps     deadly “accidents” where happening to the wives of men who wanted to marry     another woman without having the expense of supporting the first wife.      This is an evil practice that happens in countries during the modern age.      In India where a man can get a bigger dowry by marrying again, first wives     often die in suspicious kitchen fires.  See the Catholic Church’s position     on divorce in CCC 1650, 1664, 2382, 2384-86, 2400

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