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Speaking to the Soul: All We Need to Know

Speaking to the Soul: All We Need to Know

Week of Proper 28, Year Two

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:
Psalms 89:1-18 (morning) // 89:19-52 (evening)

Habakkuk 2:1-4, 9-20

James 2:14-26

Luke 16:19-31

On some days, Jesus could probably sum up his teaching by turning to his audience and saying, “You already know all that you need to know.” The parable that Jesus tells in today’s gospel comes to just such a conclusion. In the parable, a rich man finds himself tormented in Hades, while the poor man named Lazarus who once begged at his doorstep is now nestled in the bosom of Abraham. The rich man wants Abraham to send Lazarus back to earth to warn the rich man’s five brothers that they should give to the poor while they still have a chance, and so escape pain in the afterlife. But Abraham thinks the rich man’s brothers already know all they need to know.

As Abraham puts it, “They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.” But the rich man is sure that his brothers will find a resurrected Lazarus much more convincing than the Law (the five books of Moses) or the Prophets. Abraham, however, is unmoved: “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”

Surprisingly for many of us Christians, this parable of Jesus Christ puts little stock in the resurrection as a means of persuading people to serve the poor and so escape Hades. Apparently, Jesus the teacher believed that his audience already knew all they needed to know: Fulfill the call of the Law and the Prophets to bring justice to the poor, and you will inherit God’s promises. What could someone risen from the dead possibly add to the crystal-clear message of the Law and the Prophets?

When a lawyer approaches Jesus elsewhere and asks, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”, Jesus doesn’t give the man some new revelation. Instead, Jesus asks him what is written in the law. The lawyer tells him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus tells him that he’s got the right answer, and all he needs now is to do what the law teaches (Luke 10:25-28).

In the gospel of Luke, Jesus the teacher reminds people that they already know all they need to know to escape pain and to inherit eternal life: love God, love neighbor, give to the poor. They don’t need new information about God. They don’t even need someone risen from the dead. They just need a reminder to do what they’ve known all along. Today’s gospel puts us in touch with Jesus the humble teacher who merely reminds us to do what we’ve always known will bring us the kingdom.

Lora Walsh blogs about the Daily Office readings at A Daily Scandal. She serves as Priest Associate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and assists with adult formation and campus ministry at St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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