25th September 2022 – 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
First Reading: Amos 6:1,4-7
Thus says the Lord, the God of hosts:
“Alas for those who are at ease in Zion, and for those who feel secure on Mount Samaria!
“Alas for those who lie on beds of ivory, and lounge on their couches, and eat lambs from the flock, and calves from the stall; who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp, and like David improvise on instruments of music; who drink wine from bowls, and anoint themselves with the finest oils, but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph!
“Therefore they shall now be the first to go into exile, and the revelry of those who lie in ease shall pass away.”
Second Reading: 1 Timothy 6:11-16
As for you, Timothy, man of God; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called and for which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
In the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep the commandment without spot or blame until the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will bring about at the right time. He is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords.
It is he alone who has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see; to him be honour and eternal dominion. Amen.
Gospel: Luke 16:19-31
Jesus told this parable to those among the Pharisees who loved money: “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried.
In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’
“The man who had been rich said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send Lazarus to my father’s house – for I have five brothers – that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ Abraham said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'”
Reflection – Empty hands upraised
The parable of “Mr. Rich and Mr. Poor” is a warning for prosperous people in our prosperous countries. Indifference to the needs of the poor is against the gospel. The gospel contrasts the two attitudes, that of Lazarus, the image of the poor, the downtrodden, those left penniless by the greed of the wealthy and the tax-collectors, and whose only hope was in the mercy of God, and on the other hand that of the rich man, clothed extravagantly, and feasting magnificently every day, self-sufficient, not seeing any need whatsoever to beg for God’s mercy.
Help is at hand for the poor, who for a short while share in Christ’s sufferings so as to share in his glory. For as St Paul tells us, “What we suffer in this life can’t be compared to the glory which is awaiting us.” But for anyone who stores up treasure in this world instead of becoming rich in the sight of God, death brings the realisation that his life was wasted, that his spirit wants to be possessed by God, but cannot do so because it has become fixed in its ways. As a man lives, so shall he die.
The poor in spirit are the ones who put their trust in God. “There is one thing I ask of the Lord; for this I long; to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life” (Ps 26). They try to bear life’s crosses with patience and trust. Further, they welcome life gratefully, without being materialistic, for as St Paul says, “the world as we know it is passing away.” (1 Cor 7:31). Take each day as a gift and try to live it well. With the Psalmist we can pray, “my soul thirsts for God, the God of my life. When can I enter and see the face of God” (Ps 42).
If when we listen to today’s gospel about Lazarus and the rich man, we tend to identify with Lazarus, we miss the whole point of the story. We, collectively, are the rich man. In Europe we have a mountain of beef, a mountain of cereals, a mountain of butter, a lake of wine and a lake of milk, that cost us a fortune to maintain. These are only the crumbs that fall from our table. Amos’ warning is aimed directly at us: “Woe to those ensconced snugly in Zion.” The problem about being collectively responsible for the world’s starving masses is that we can so easily shrug off our personal responsibility. You may be living in a bed-sitter with few comforts or struggling to meet the mortgage repayments on your home. Yet all the services we benefit from, our public transport system, our education, our health services etc. derive from the rich man’s club to which we belong. We dine at the rich man’s table.
The prosperity of our developed world began to be built on products that were looted from the colonies. We still get primary resources from developing countries for a relative pittance, like the tea and coffee we drink, and sell it on at elevated prices. Adding insult to injury, we still hope that other countries will be willing to accept our toxic waste. After feeding and clothing ourselves with their resources, we are now returning our rubbish to them. We are becoming aware that we are spoiling our world by climate change. Our revelry is coming home to roost. We need to take to heart the parable of Dives and Lazarus. Our world is too small to bear such inequalities. Unless we share our surplus and care for our world, we will end up in a hell of our own creation.