A Word about the Readings
by Father Gethin
(The readings may be found here)
This week we set out on the long green passage through the Trinity season, which will lead us finally back to Advent and the beginning of a new Church year. Last week we celebrated God as Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, made known to us through the saving work of Jesus: we saw how our salvation in Christ opens the way for us to approach and share in God’s divine goodness by our rebirth in the Spirit.
In today’s epistle St. John wants us to see more clearly what that life is all about, as a kind of guide and signpost as we set out to follow that way for ourselves: “beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God, and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” This is the heart of our Christian life and story: in Christ we find ourselves restored to the life of communion and fellowship with God and neighbour, which is the life of love. Our calling, as Christ’s followers, means that we must always consider the condition of our souls, and continually commit ourselves to the work of God’s grace, strengthening and confirming and perfecting His love within us. The journey of our faith is the journey into love.
In today’s Gospel Jesus wants us to understand what is necessary for us to begin that journey. There is a temptation to hear the startling story of the rich man and poor Lazarus as a kind of cautionary tale, meant to guard us against hard-heartedness. But that is only part of the message. Notice that the rich man has no name; he is a kind of everyman, an image of the fallen, worldly view of things, ignorant of God’s purpose. He is all of us, before we are saved, and accordingly, his final end is the eternal torment of his Godless ways. By way of contrast, Lazarus represents the story of our faith leading to redemption, which is the end we see him come to receive. That may sound strange, since Lazarus was so miserable, but the point for us is this: in order to enter the way of salvation we must first behold with honesty and humility the condition of our spiritual poverty, we must know ourselves in the fullness of our need for God’s mercy: “herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Only as we wait patiently on that mercy, and never suppose we have no need of God’s help, can we begin to make any progress into the life of Love.