26th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“Our God, The Friend Of The Poor.”
It is our ‘purple and fine linen’, our life of ease and our love of wealth that is criticized and condemned by Christ, our Lord and Saviour, who in the presence of Pilate stood like Lazarus covered with sores and wounds, in poverty and virtually naked, spoke up as a ‘Witness of the Truth’.
The people of Israel looked on the rich as people blessed by God. The first reading instead attacks these people because they use their social standing to lead a lazy, selfish and merry life. (Merry is certainly not happy!)
Most people choose willingly to stay on the side of the rich. The Gospel of today instead tells us that God stands with the poor and outcasts. He considers the ‘poor’ as his friends and gives a name to all those who are insignificant in human eyes, those who are deprived, neglected or forgotten. He demands justice for them in this world.
The second reading is linked to this theme because it denounces the ‘greed for wealth’ as the cause of all evil and unhappiness.
Introductory Note: It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible. These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation are from the published works of priests who have by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings. These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings. ‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“Allow the Spirit of God to break the chains that keep us from understanding and accepting the word of God.”
Amos 6:1, 4-7.
In the first reading, the reluctant farmer-turned-prophet, Amos, directs his harsh attack to the comfortable rich, aristocrats and political leaders who live in the palaces in Samaria. The text shows all the rage of Amos who can no longer bear the sight of labourers so shamelessly exploited by the big landowners by forcing them to pass all day working in their fields, under a scorching sun and returning home in the evening totally exhausted by fatigue; while the rich and the leaders pass their time in their palaces banqueting and enjoying themselves.
The reading ends with a terrible threat: in a few years their enemies will come; the Assyrians will burn down their palaces and destroy their city. The lazy leaders will be dragged from their ivory couches and divans and will be led to Nineveh as slaves. What teaching can we draw from this reading?
Whilst we may not be rich aristocrats or political leaders we could still ask ourselves: do we not behave like the comfortable rich in Samaria? Maybe not, because we never had the chance to be like them; we have no power and no great wealth. Yet, when we wish to satisfy our small or big whims and vices, do we not impose hardships to our family and others just like the revellers of Samaria just to get our own selfish way?
Are there not many young men in our townships and suburbs who dream of living like the rich of Samaria who resort to crime to achieve these empty dreams? How many of our young women would trade their bodies to be invited at least once to such lavish feasts? Are our young people, the future of our nation building up their lives on ‘solid foundations of virtue’ or destroying their lives by the unhealthy examples of false and worthless values of this world which are unpleasing to God?
The Psalm is the first of the final set of songs of praise in the Psalter. Our verses praise God neither for his powers of creation nor for his mighty deeds in delivering his people but because of his concern for the weak and the defenceless. God, whose everlasting reign will see to it that the poor and the oppressed will get their rights. Such a God was of no interest to the ‘lazy and very comfortable leaders’, ‘financially powerful’ and the ‘selfish’ as Amos refers to in the first reading.
1 Timothy 6:11-16.
The second reading points out clearly where our
true riches are. Paul says to Timothy, “But as for you, [Timothy], man of God, shun all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness”. Every Christian should reflect on the above list of virtues, but especially the community leader must see if he/she has them all. The faithful are in fact looking to him/her as a model to imitate. Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called and for which you made good confession in the presence of many witnesses. Timothy’s aim must be to practice all the virtues that make the gaining of eternal life.
In the last part of the reading, Paul is once again speaking of the problem causing him so much preoccupation. He fears that false doctrines may lead the Christian communities astray, so he beseeches Timothy to keep the Gospel he had announced. What about our community animators now: are they tempted at times to modify the message of the Master to suit the whims of the powerful? Are we too not tempted to bend the teachings of Christ to suit our life-styles?
In the Gospel, Jesus, even more insightfully than Amos, warns us of the dulling dangers of wealth. He does this through the parable of ‘The Rich Man and Poor Man’. The ‘rich man’ had everything; not only in clothes and food, he is also rich in privilege and in the freedom he enjoys from the worry and anguish that besets the poor. His station in life conceals him from his responsibilities; it blinds him to the desperate needs of the ‘poor man’ Lazarus who lies at his own gate. The rich man had lost all concern for others.
The ‘sin of the rich man’ was that he never noticed Lazarus and that he accepted it as simply natural and inevitable that Lazarus should lie in pain and hunger while he lived in excess and luxury. His sin was that he could look on the world’s sufferings and needs and feel no grief, compassion and pity piercing his heart. He looked at a fellow man, hungry and in pain, and did nothing about it. Lazarus dies at the gate of the rich man; no mention is made of a burial or funeral. Time has caught up, as it always does with the rich man and as it did with Lazarus and eventually will with all of us. Both now have died, and there is a ‘reversal of fortunes’.
Lazarus was taken up into the bosom of Abraham (heaven), whereas the rich man entered the torment of Hades (hell). The new agony of the rich man educates him; it awakens in him a compassion for his brothers and he hopes that Lazarus can return to earth and warn them. For the rich man the flames have become a refining fire. His regret and compassion are too late, and no warnings can be given to his brothers. Abraham tells him, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” No ghostly apparitions are going to save his brothers: they have the ‘teachings and guidance of Scripture’ and the poor at their gates. That is more than enough!
There was no suggestion in the parable that the rich man, traditionally called ‘Divas’, acquired his wealth by unjust means. His sin was in what he failed to do. His was the punishment of the man who never noticed, not so much for having done anything wrong, ‘but for doing nothing’!
Commenting on this parable St Ambrose said: “When you give something to the poor, you are not giving him what is yours, but are just giving back to him what is his, since the goods of this world belong to all, not just the rich”.
Unfortunately our hearts become hardened in all the usual ways. We have learned not to care what we see and hear in the news. Like many in this country we are affected by ‘compassion and crime fatigue’: the awareness of global suffering has led to the instinctive shutting down of natural concern. Jesus will never ask us how we felt about poverty, only what we did about it.
Sins of ‘omission’ are easily overlooked by ourselves. Self-serving piousness frequently launders conscience of its social responsibilities. Charity has to be proactive, looking beyond self, taking the initiative, making the gesture and doing what is possible.
Lazarus is the personification of the ‘Beatitudes’. The rich man personifies the ‘Four Woes’. There is a vast gulf between them. Guess which side God is on?
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week:
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following
26th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C, we reflect on …
Sun. … If the prophet Amos had to come into our communities today how would he react to the many examples of self-enrichment from our political and industry leaders at the cost of the taxpayer and the poor. Mon. … Will our political and community leaders and the wealthy need to be threatened like the comfortable rich in Samaria before they react? Where do ‘we’ stand in terms of the ‘comfortable rich’? Tues. … Incorrect examples we may give others in fulfilling our own needs first at the expense of others will sadly drive many of our young men and women to trade their weakened values for the ‘false gods’ of short-term riches and glitter in order to imitate the life-styles of leaders, celebrities and rap artist/movie star icons. As adults and parents we all need to instil in our youth proper Christian virtues that are strong and values that are non-compromising. Wed. … In the second reading Paul points out to Timothy clearly where our true riches are. We need to shun worldly things and pursue Christian virtues: righteousness, godliness, faith, enduring love and gentleness. He cautions us against false doctrines that may lead our communities astray. Are we not too tempted at times to bend the teaching of Christ to suit our own privileged life-styles? Thurs. … The message of the Gospel and the Scriptures remind us of God’s concern and love for the poor. God invites us to share with the needy and to learn ‘how to live simply so others might simply live’. Frid. … The place and genuine concern we give to the poor and needy in our community shows which way we are heading in our journey of faith. The way we chose to live will prepare us to either be united with God or to be willingly separated from him for all eternity. Sat. …We all need to realize that money is a good servant when properly used, but becomes a bad master, even a tyrant, when it is allowed to take over the control of life. Compared to the ‘rich man’ in the parable we all may look quite good. Jesus does not want to lay a guilt trip on us. He just wants us to take a second look at ourselves, to see if there is something more we can do.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Father, help us to recognize the dangers of the ‘sins of omission’. Grant to us compassion that we may be always concerned about the well-being of others. May our Charity be proactive, looking beyond self, taking the initiative and doing what is possible.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.
Compliments: Bible Discussion Group.
Our Lady of the Wayside, Maryvale.
“Discovering the Truth through God’s living Word”.