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?
Contrast this image with St. Teresa of Calcutta. In a general letter she wrote to her sisters in July 1961:
My dear children, without our suffering, our work would just be social work, very good and helpful, but it would not be the work of Jesus Christ, not part of the redemption. Jesus wanted to help us by sharing our life, our loneliness, our agony and death…Only by being one with us He has redeemed us. We are allowed to do the same: All the desolation of the poor people, not only their material poverty, but their spiritual destitution must be redeemed, and we must have our share in it. Pray thus when you find it hard – “I wish to live in this world which is so far from God, which has turned so much from the light of Jesus, to help them – to take upon me something of their suffering.” Yes, my dear children – let us share the sufferings – of our Poor – for only by being one with them – we can redeem them, that is, bringing God into their lives and bringing them to God.
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 these words to heart. It should help us realize that our faith is a living relationship of love – with God and with others(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 oneGod 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. Continue reading →
1st Reading – Amos 8: 4-7
Amos was a native of the village of Tekoa located 6 miles south of Bethlehem on the edge of the Judean wilderness. He made his living as a shepherd and dresser of sycamore trees. What is translated as sycamore is probably a type of mulberry that produced a type of fig-like fruit. They had to be punctured or pinched at exactly the right moment in its growth cycle so as to release the insects that infested it. Insect-free fruit would then grow to ripeness so that the poor, for whom the fruit provided some meager sustenance, could gather it up and be fed. Although Amos thought he was not suitable to be the prophet God called him to be, perhaps his job with these trees had actually prepared him well to pinch and puncture the greed and dishonesty that infested the hearts of some of the rich at that time. The greedy rich did not even like the Sabbath rest for it kept them from their unscrupulous business practices. These heartless and disreputable merchants actually sold the poor into lives of slavery because of their greed. Amos understood the lives of the poor; he spoke out vehemently with condemnation toward those whose greed continued to force the poor into more and more difficulties. We need to allow Amos’ words to pinch and puncture us so we too are open to God’s ways of love and truth, not selfish greed. God still hears the cry of the poor; he is not fooled by superficial piety. (Celebration, Sept. 2001 and Exploring the Sunday Readings, Sept. 1998)
There is a sense that nothing is hidden from the Lord. All of our actions are noticed and have meaning. Sometimes we don’t even give thought to how our actions have impact on others, such as the food or clothing we buy from a company that doesn’t practice fair wages. In what ways can you be more mindful of your actions?
2nd Reading — 1 Timothy 2: 1-8
As we said last week, most scholarship theorizes that this letter wasn’t actually written by Paul but a disciple of his. Some in the community were succumbing to Gnosticism, and so the letter is countering that. Gnosis is Greek for knowledge. Gnostics thought they possessed special, mystical knowledge that they received because they were an elite group. They believed all matter is evil, so our bodies are evil and our spirits must escape them. In order to be liberated from our bodies, a spiritual messenger must come and awaken us from our sleep. This messenger brings gnosis. For Christian Gnostics, that messenger was Jesus. But because they believed bodies were evil, they rejected the idea that Christ had a body like ours (appeared to be human but not). So there were theories about Jesus’ birth, incarnation and resurrection that threatened Christian doctrine (Gonzalez, JL, The Story of Christianity Vol I, pgs 58-61). In this letter to Timothy, “Paul” writes how EVERYONE is to be saved, there is ONE mediator and he is a ransom for ALL. What do you make of this in our world today?
The Gospel – Luke 16: 1-13
This whole section is tied together by the theme of wealth and the danger it poses for disciples. Luke is always very concerned about this problem. Don’t you wonder why Jesus advises that we should make friends with dishonest wealth?
Jesus’ audience (and Luke’s) would have expected the steward to be jailed immediately. When this didn’t happen in the parable, their imagination was captured. The underdog seems to be getting the better of the person in power! In actuality, the master is a man of mercy. The steward knew that, since he wasn’t jailed, and decided to capitalize on that. When he lowered the renters’ ransom notes (connect this ransom with the one in the previous reading!), the renters believed it was with the master’s approval and so he is a hero. It would look bad if the master changed this. The steward hoped that even if the master did not reinstate him, he would be welcomed and employed by others in the community. The steward relies heavily on the fact that the master is generous and merciful. God is the master, and we are God’s stewards. We are completely dependent on God for life itself. Only God can save (Birmingham, M, Word and Worship, p. 481).
As disciples, we need prudent decisiveness. We must take our identity so seriously that it defines how we live. We are not going to live in this world forever. We or our profits are not the source and security of our lives; God is. We had better take his priorities seriously. We need to realize that all our choices in daily living are actually choices for eternal life. And, our Christian way of living – our Paschal Mystery living – isn’t simply a matter of surrendering to the self-sacrificing possibilities that come our way in the normal course of living. We must be clever and smart about searching out such opportunities to live Jesus’ proactive way of love. This passage in Luke’s gospel is really challenging us with the question: How smart are you? We need to know who and what we are. We need to face our gifts and shortcomings honestly. It does not do ourselves or anyone else any good to live in fantasy. We need to face our abilities and the real situation with clarity. Such realism is an asset in many a crises. It enables us to come up with real solutions to the problems. It is only practical, real-life wisdom that brings true insight. (Pheme Perkins, Hearing the Parables of Jesus, 165-171, & Living Liturgy, Cycle C, 2004)