Preparing for Sunday anticipating this day.The Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Amos 6:1, 4-7
Psalms 146:7, 8-9, 9-10
First Timothy 6:11-16
Imagine yourself, “laid-back,” taking it easy, enjoying your ease. Perhaps you are listening to some relaxing music, having a tall cool-one, and somebody out in the street begins chiding you for not being concerned about the state of the country or your town, or neighborhood. Perhaps that chider has been walking around your neighborhood for several weeks or months saying similar things and offering suggestions to you about things you might do. He might also warn you about what might happen if you don’t take some action.
Amos, in our First Reading today, has been challenging, provoking, warning, and insulting the rich and powerful of Israel. What we hear today is quite a descriptive picturing of the “fat-cat” life that Amos fears will continue the downfall and exile of God’s people. They have grown less and less reliant on God while becoming more and more indulgent and sedated by their wealth. Israel has enjoyed the abundance of the gift of the land, but has forgotten the Giver. They have lost sight of themselves as a nation and in their blindness fail to see the coming disasters of exile and destruction.
Amos is speaking to the wealthy who believe their riches will never fail to support their comforts. The attraction to the comforts and ease which wealth provides, desensitizes the hearts of the rich whose main worry is about the next exciting event. Luke continues his similar theme in today’s Gospel. Jesus is still talking directly to the Pharisees whom He knows to be lovers of money. We hear a devastatingly direct parable, whose meaning is hard to miss, unless of course, we are listening to the siren of money.
A “Siren” is a mythical sea nymph which lured ship-captains and their crews to disaster. A siren is also a warning device used to prevent disaster. Amos and Jesus see riches as attractive yet they can be an alarm. The parable gives us a picture of one man who lived seduced by the allurements of rich sumptuous indulgence.
The story is more than a denouncing of riches but how wealth can keep us isolated and even contemptuous of the poor and needy who might be right outside our door. Lazarus, the name means, “God Will Be good to Me,” is dressed in his sores and hungered each day for scraps from the rich-man’s table. This gets the attention of the Pharisees, but the punch line is next.
Both men die and the one who had nothing has all in heaven, but the one who had everything has nothing but his thirst. The drama increases when the rich man begs Abraham to send messengers to his brothers after asking him to send Lazarus with a fingerful of water to slake his thirst. Now we hear the climax.
Abraham reminds the rich man that he and his family had Moses and the prophets, who in their writings and proclaimings, had guided and warned them before. They, like the rich man, did not listen or change. The siren blew, but the warnings went unheard.
The rich man gives it one more try. If Lazarus, who died, would appear from the dead, certainly then the people would listen and repent. Abraham says simply that if they didn’t listen to God speaking through Moses and the prophets, they would not listen to one who would rise. This is Luke’s way of linking his Gospel to his writing of The Acts of the Apostles. Jesus, Who spoke the direct words to the Pharisees and went unheeded, would rise and appear, but would not be able to be heard by all.
We can imagine how the tempters of the Pharisees were boiling as
the full meaning of this parable hit them. They have been insulted,
yet invited away from their wealthy comforts and they don’t want any more
shouting at them about their ignoring the poor. After all this, there
is little to write. Was Jesus exaggerating? How close is Lazarus
to my door? To what siren do I listen?
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