The 1st Reading — Amos 6:1, 4-7
Amos is continuing to lament and grow weary of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. The rich are basking in the glow of their wealth, even drinking wine out of bowls! Scholars think the reference to David is trying to be ironic. Unlike David who used his musical talents for praising God, the wealthy of Israel were dabbling in the art simply for their own entertainment and enjoyment. The prophecy of the rich going into exile first does occur. In 722BC Assyria attacks the northern Kingdom (Celebration, Sept. 1998). Their complacency did not benefit them in the end. What happens when we become complacent and take for granted what we have?
The 2nd Reading – 1 Timothy 6: 11-16
This passage tells us clearly how and what we are to be. It is an exhortation not just for Timothy, but for every baptized person. We all need to take to these words to heart. It should help us realize that our faith is a living relationship of love – with God and with others. It perhaps would have been even better if the lectionary had included the verses just preceding this passage, verses 7-10:
For we brought nothing into the world,
just as we shall not be able to take anything out of it.
If we have food and clothing, we shall be content with that.
Those who want to be rich are falling into temptation
and into a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires,
which plunge them into ruin and destruction (Celebration, Sept. 2001).
What wisdom do you find in this passage? What do you make of the writer saying we should, “Compete well for the faith,”?
The Gospel — Luke 16: 19 – 31
This gospel reading is challenging us to open our eyes and minds and hearts to those around us. Let not our possessions and comforts blind us and deaden us. Perhaps the saddest aspect of this parable comes when the rich man, suffering now himself, raised his eyes and saw Lazarus. But even then he only saw him as someone who could meet his needs — not as a person in his own right with needs. The rich man has no name (although he is sometimes called Dives, a Latin word for rich); the poor man is given a name and an identity: Lazarus, which means the one God helps or loves. (Celebration, Sept. 2001)
St. John Chrysostom, “Thoughts from the Early Church,” http://liturgy.slu.edu:
Have you thought about why the rich man saw Lazarus in Abraham’s arms? Abraham was not only our ‘father-in-faith,’ but he was also known for his hospitality. Abraham did not begrudgingly help strangers; he would sit in his doorway and catch all who passed by – to offer them friendship and food.
He did not know that these strangers would bring the tangible presence of God and new life to him and to his wife as they did (Genesis 18:1 – 8).
From William Barclay, The Gospel of Luke, 221-222:
The details in this parable are very important. The rich man had great luxury: garments of purple and fine linen. The word that is used for feasting is one that is used for a glutton who feeds on exotic and costly dishes – everyday. His self-indulgence seemed to give him no time for work while his servants must have slaved to keep him fed. Also, in these days food was eaten with the hands. In very wealthy houses, the hands were cleaned by wiping them on chunks of bread. The bread was then thrown away. These were the ‘crumbs’ that Lazarus longed to be allowed to eat. The rich man was not deliberately cruel; nor was he accused of being the reason for Lazarus’ poverty. His sin is his blindness – his lack of even noticing another’s need. That lack of human concern for anyone outside of himself was a great chasm that separated him from love, life.
From Richard Rohr, The Good News According to Luke, 169-170:
Hades is the abode of the dead. It does not necessarily coincide with our term of hell. In this story there is a big chasm separating those who respond to and with God’s love and those who do not. The ‘hell side’ is the state of being where you don’t love – where you find yourself cut off and where non-life is chosen. This parable is not suppose to convince us that God’s justice is served by physically punishing people: God’s justice cannot be served by “burning people’s behinds.” The story is suppose to open us to the true way of life – to listening to God’s Word and letting it guide our life and our choices. We are to choose life – love – sharing – communion. We need to choose the good because it is good – it leads to life. Such choice leads to dignity and goodness. There is as Abraham says in the story a ‘great chasm’ between heaven and hell – between fear and faith, between death and life. This story was meant to help us overcome the chasm – not to deepen it.