26th Sunday Ordinary Time
Amos 6: 1, 4-7; Psalm 146,
1 Timothy 6: 11-16, Luke 16: 19-31
Luke seems to be on this social justice kick. Last week, in the parable with the dishonest steward, we have Jesus saying to his disciples that they cannot serve both God and Mammon; mammon being the love of money. This week, social justice; especially regarding the injustices placed on the poor by the rich, seems to be the dominant theme.
In our first reading the prophet Amos is preaching to the Israelites during a time a of wealth and prosperity. Amos is upset because those who have wealth are complacent; they lie upon beds of ivory, stretched comfortably on their couches. In other words, its not that they have wealth, but that they don’t use it to help their neighbor in need. Instead they waste it and spend their wealth on frivolous things. Similarly, in our Gospel, the rich man is exactly like the people the prophet Amos is angry with in Old Testament. We know that the rich man is very wealthy because he has fine clothes that are purple (a color that is a sign of royalty and wealth). Further, Luke tells us that the man dined extravagantly each day, while Lazarus would have been happy with scraps of food that fell from the table. Luke is showing us that Jesus feels the same way as Amos regarding the injustices between the rich and the poor: that the rich, who are complacent in their own wealth, have forgotten and turned a blind eye to the needs of those around them. Thus, this the type of injustice moves both the prophet Amos and Jesus to say: woe to the complacent of Zion, because they have been hard of heart and ignored the needs of the poor.
Whenever Jesus is speaking to the pharisees he always seems very harsh. But this is because they should know better. The pharisees know the demands of covenant love. They know that they are called to love God and Neighbor. But the pharisees have forgotten that one fundamental way of loving God is through the love we show our Neighbor. Instead Jesus calls them out for who they really are: “money-lovers” who have become complacent in their love of God and neighbor.
So how do we prevent this kind of complacency from entering in our lives? Something that is very difficult for me is to see the suffering that other people experience. For example, the other day I went to downtown Chicago with a buddy from the seminary to walk around and explore the city. During this time we came across many of the poor who are homeless and suffering. Now I wish I could tell you some great story about how I helped the poor, but instead I had hard time even looking them in the eye! Halfway through our time downtown I realized this. I decided to at least look these, my sisters and brothers who are suffering on the streets, in the eyes and say hello. Rather than ignoring they exist like the Rich man did to Lazarus, I tried to affirm these people I met with a simple hello and a smile. Rather than being complacent, and purposefully unaware of the needs of the poor in Chicago, Christ changed my heart so that I could give a small gesture of love to those who are suffering in Chicago.
The good news for all of us is that Christ is working in all of our hearts. Christ is asking each of us to love God more through our love for one another. St. Paul encourages us beautifully today, he says, But you, people of God, pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. Compete well for the faith. In other words, we compete well for the faith, we fight against complacency in our hearts, by allowing our faith in Jesus, our love of God, to give us patience and gentleness in our dealings with others. Listen to this great message from Saint Paul:
Let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor. Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the holy ones – Romans 12: 9-13a
Today, each of us are challenged to respond to God’s call to love each other with the mutual affection of brothers and sisters. The readings call us on to shake off our complacency. Some of us may have been blessed with great wealth and so we seek God’s guidance on how to use that wealth to serve the needs of others. Many of us do not have great wealth, but there is still so much that God can accomplish through each of us without the use of money. The most simple way we can do this is by being present to one another. We live our baptismal call, as sons and daughters of God and sisters and brothers in Christ, by contributing to the needs of those around us in simple ways. Somedays that may be saying hello to someone who others have forgotten. Somedays that may mean using our wealth to help lift another out of an affliction. But it always means competing well in the faith, not being complacent, but rather loving others as Christ has loved us. May the Eucharist we receive today give us the strength to fight off complacency in our lives, so that we can love God more by being present and loving to our sisters and brothers in need around us.