Thus says the Lord, the God of hosts: Woe to the complacent in Zion! Lying upon beds of ivory, stretched comfortably on their couches, they eat lambs taken from the flock, and calves from the stall! Improving to the music of the harp, like David, they devise their own accompaniment. They drink wine from bowls and anoint themselves with the best oils; yet they are not made ill by the collapse of Joseph! Therefore, now they shall be the first to go into exile, and their wanton revelry shall be done away with.(P) The word of the Lord.
Blessed is he who keeps faith forever, secures justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets captives free. (R)
The Lord gives sight to the blind; the Lord raises up those who were bowed down. The Lord loves the just; the Lord protects strangers. (R)
The fatherless and the widow he sustains, but the way of the wicked he thwarts. The Lord shall reign forever; your God, O Zion, through all generations. Alleluia. (R)
But you, man of God, pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. Compete well for the faith. Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called when you made the noble confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you before God, who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus, who gave testimony under Pontius Pilate for the noble confession, to keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ that the blessed and only ruler will make manifest at the proper time, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, and whom no human being has seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal power. Amen.(P) The word of the Lord.
Jesus said to the Pharisees: "There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man's table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores. When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he cried out, "Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames." Abraham replied, "My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented. Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours." He said, "Then I beg you, father, send him to my father's house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment." But Abraham replied, "They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them." He said, "Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent." Then Abraham said, "If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.""(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
One Sunday a priest announced to his congregation: "I have got some good news and bad news. The good news is we have enough money to pay for the construction of our new church. The bad news is it is still out there in your pockets."
According to a recent United Nations report, about 800 million people, out of the 7.4 billion in the world, are undernourished or have not enough food to eat. Why do so many millions of people suffer from hunger and poverty? Is it because there is not enough food for everyone on the planet? No. The truth is there are enough resources on earth to feed everyone but sad to say, they are not accessible to all. Human greed and selfishness keep millions of people in the grip of poverty. As someone puts it, "There is enough for everybody's need, but not enough for everybody's greed."
More than seven hundred years before the birth of Christ, the Prophet Amos saw clearly what is happening today. He spoke against the complacent rich and self-absorbed people in Israel who were enjoying a life of luxury and big feasts while the poor suffered around them. In today's first reading, the prophet depicted the wealthy people lying on beds and couches of ivory, eating the best lamb, anointing themselves with the best oils and drinking the best wines and, he boldly and fearlessly condemned them and pronounced their destruction. Many of the prophets after Amos continued to condemn the people for their lack of sympathy for the poor and hungry, and warned them about the harsh consequences of their sin.
The gospel accounts of Jesus' life show that Jesus also fully understood the suffering of the poor. He was relentless in his condemnation of the wealth that people accumulated either at the expense of the poor, or in defiance of a humble dependence on God. He condemned the selfishness and insensitivity of the people toward their suffering neighbour, and encouraged those who wanted to be his followers to fulfil their obligation, to help those in need. One such teaching that is very familiar to many of us is in today's gospel.
According to the parable, a rich man had a very comfortable life. He wore expensive clothes and ate good food every day. Meanwhile a destitute, wearing old, dirty clothes and with sores all over his body, lay at his gate every day, waiting for any scrap of food to come from the rich man's home. But the rich man fed those scraps to his dogs. Jesus then gave an account of the complete reversal of fortune for the two men after their death. Lazarus was "carried away by the angels" to a place of comfort, "Abraham's bosom", while the rich man was sent to a place of torment, "hell".
From there he called out to Abraham to send Lazarus with at least a drop of water to cool his tongue, because he was in agony from the flames. Abraham denied the rich man's request by reminding him of his life of luxury, ease and indulgence and of the plight of Lazarus in his earthly life, and the eternal separation between the place of comfort and the place of torment.
What caused the reversal of fortune? The rich man's reversal of fortune was neither because he was wealthy nor because he wore fine clothes and had good food every day, also nor because he did any harm to Lazarus but because he lacked compassion for the destitute. According to the Old Testament writings, Micah (2:9); Isaiah (58:7); Nehemiah (5:1-19), the rich landowners were expected to share their land with the poor, God's people, in any number of ways.
Based on this custom, the rich man was obligated to take care of Lazarus, ensuring his basic needs were met. But this did not happen between the rich man and Lazarus. Even the dogs had more compassion and care for poor Lazarus than did the rich man. They licked his sores and eased his pain. The rich man had been completely oblivious to the plight of the poor man outside his gates.
When the rich man's first humble request for relief was denied, he begged Abraham to send Lazarus to his father's house to warn his brothers who were still alive on earth about making better choices so that they would never join him in hell. But Abraham denied his second request too by saying if his brothers and others on earth did not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither would they listen to someone resurrected from the dead and repent.
What could we learn from this story?
First of all, we learn that Heaven and Hell are real places in one of which all people will live eternally after death. Even though we do not want to talk much about judgment after death or eternal condemnation to hell, the parable serves as a reminder that after we die, we are judged, and the reward we receive, to be either in heaven or in hell, will depend on how we live on earth. Hence, as true followers of Christ, we should look at all the commands and the instructions that Moses and all the prophets and Jesus have given to us, and live accordingly.
Secondly, as long as we hold the attitude of this rich man, we stand in danger of eternally separating ourselves from God and others. Hence, as true followers of Christ, we should not be in anyway indifferent to the plight of others, nor hoard things for ourselves. Instead let us give away what we don't really need or use. Let us get into the habit of sharing what we can spare. And let us use our wealth to honor God and His people.(P) Amen.
God Bless You!