Shalom! Peace to you!
The readings this weekend remind us of last week’s call to reflect on the order of our priorities but with a more urgent tone. Amos’ words “woe to the complacent” are intended to discomfort us to the point of taking action in changing our lives. Jesus’ account of Lazarus and the rich man goes even deeper because the woes that the rich man is experiencing seem to have a more intense and possibly eternal character to them while those that Amos warns of are temporal. Jesus is really encouraging us to think about the day of reckoning. A few things about this story are important for us to understand. First, like the rich man, God has given us many good things in life and we will give an account of how we use them. Second, it appears that the greatest problem that the rich man has is his attitude toward Lazarus. From his place of torment, his attitude toward Lazarus hasn’t changed. He still seems to look down on Lazarus as an inferior to himself. We are reminded that poor people don’t have the same chances in life as the rich. Lazarus received what was bad while the rich man received what was good. Lazarus could have grown up in any one of the thousands of slums in cities across the world or he was born to addicted parents. Who knows? The possibilities are endless. Third, it isn’t clear whether the rich man’s torments are eternal or not. We don’t know whether he is eternally damned or undergoing purification from his sins. There is a ray of hope that he will suffer—that is change his attitude—and be free upon his change. Either way, it is obvious that he is suffering greatly with no escape. We are supposed to feel concern when we hear these readings. We are concerned for ourselves and the account we will give and we are concerned with care for the poor—God cares and so do we! Paul’s letter to Timothy gives us encouragement and direction: we are people reborn in Christ, truly committed to love God and neighbor. Each day we are capable of helping another person in the name of Jesus Christ. Each day we find renewal in the grace we are given through these opportunities. The Gospel is the Good News, that when we turn from selfishness and try to serve others, God’s mercy helps us. Our efforts also help the Lazarus’ of our day share in the joy of God’s kingdom! May God’s blessings be with you all! +++ Fr. Peter