Unheard Voices – Br. Lain Wilson

Luke 16:19-31

Whose voice aren’t we hearing?

This has been the question that rings loudly in my mind as I hear our Gospel lesson today. In it, we learn a lot about our characters: what Lazarus wanted in life, what the rich man is desperate for in the afterlife, and that Abraham cannot—or will not—give to the rich man what he desires.

“Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue,” the rich man begs (Lk 16:24). No, Abraham replies. There’s a chasm fixed between us, and no way across.

“Send [Lazarus] to my father’s house . . . that he may warn [my family]” (Lk 16:27-28). No. There’s nothing the dead can do for the living that the living can’t get from the law and prophets.

This story illustrates Jesus’s own statement, from just a few verses before, that “it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one stroke of a letter in the law to be dropped” (Lk 16:17). The rich man’s reversal of fortune is because of how he lived his life. The remedy was there in front of him all along, in the law and the prophets. We have that remedy, too.

But whose voice aren’t we hearing?

We never hear Lazarus’s voice. And Jesus has come to fulfill the law in unexpected ways.

I wonder, if we could hear Lazarus’s voice, if he would have said, “Okay. I’ll do it.” If he would have forgiven the rich man the wrongs he did him in life. If this story would be transformed into an illustration of what Jesus says shortly after: “if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive” (Lk 17:4). Would Lazarus have been able to forgive and, if so, could his forgiveness have bridged the chasm that separated them?

Forgiveness is a discipline—a hard discipline. Forgiveness is responsive and relational—it requires relationship. And Jesus calls us to be constantly open to another’s desire for repentance and reconciliation. Constantly. It’s a hard discipline.

Where, or with whom, are you stuck, fixed, separated by a great chasm? Have you seemingly exhausted all options? Underneath the cacophony of pain and offense and weariness, though, what voice aren’t you hearing? What voice may offer to bridge the chasm in your relationship?

Maybe nothing will change, but Jesus still calls us to be open, to try. And Jesus calls us to this hard discipline of forgiveness of others not least because it is a sign that we ourselves can always be forgiven. “Forgive us our sins,” we pray, “as we forgive those who sin against us.” How do you need to be forgiven? What voice are you desperately hoping that others might hear?


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  1. Randy LaRosa on March 12, 2024 at 11:05

    I never thought about it in this way ,but I will do my best to try.

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