Reflection of Sunday Readings – 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Are you wearing purple?


When reading through the Bible, although there are instances when colors don’t mean much of anything, there are many times when they signify something of importance. Jesus begins the story in today’s Gospel by describing a rich man as one who, “dressed in purple garments and fine linen…”. It makes you wonder why Jesus specifically used the color purple in his story.

If you dig into the reason, you’ll see that purple was the perfect color to use because it is at the heart of Jesus’ message. You might be aware that in biblical times, purple signified wealth, prosperity, and luxury, but, what’s more important to know is why it held this symbolism.

In ancient times, material was colored using natural pigments for the dye color. Synthetic dyes were not yet invented so tradesmen had to search for the pigment in nature. It ends up that the only source for purple dye was sea snails. Historical scholars tell us that thousands of sea snails were needed to make a small batch of purple dye. In fact, 12,000 sea snails would only make enough dye to color the trim of a garment. One can only imagine how much time and resources were needed to color an entire garment…not to mention the number of snails that were needed.

So, you see, if you were living in those times, you knew that anyone wearing purple had to expend a great price to purchase the garment. Anything colored purple was done through excessive waste or an abuse of resources. In other words, people who wore purple did so only to show off their wealth. It was a rare and very expensive color, and everyone knew it. But what price did the rich man actually pay to gain this worldly prestige? Jesus tells us that it cost him his very soul.

God has blessed each one of us with various gifts and these gifts are to be used for the good of society. Through the story of Lazarus and the rich man, Jesus is leading us to practice social justice. This story should make all of us reflect on where we might be wearing purple in our lives. Where are we wasting time or money on ourselves rather than putting it to use to help others. Are we wasteful with our food, our money, our talents, our time? Purple signifies those areas in our lives when we focus on ourselves rather than on the needs of others. Lazarus was lying at the rich man’s door, so he knew that Lazarus was in need. Instead of sharing some of his wealth to assist Lazarus, he chose to ignore him and continue in his lavish, selfish, and wasteful lifestyle.

Every human life is created in the image of God and because of this, every life is invaluable and worthy of respect as a member of the human family. This dignity comes from God, and we are all called by God to share His gifts with those in need.


Deacon Bob