September 30, 2006 Year C
26th Sunday in Ordinary Time/18th Sunday After Pentecost
Reflections on the Readings
By Dennis Hankins
Amos 6:1a, 4-7; Psalm 146:7-10
I Timothy 6:11-16; Luke 16:19-31
Theme: Carried by the Angels
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. (Mt. 5:7)
You know it's time to perk up when the Prophet begins with, "Thus says the LORD, the God of hosts: Woe to the complacent in Zion!" The picture Amos paints is not pretty.
There is always the problem of the frog in the boiling pot. At first nothing seems to be wrong. Then the water becomes more comfortable as it begins to warm up. Becoming more complacent as the water heats up, the ole frog never thinks to jump before it's too late.
How fitting is the account Jesus gives. He begins, "There was a rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day."
Like Amos, Jesus is warning us of the deceitful of riches.
Jesus said the Pharisees were lovers of money. (Luke 16:14) So was Judas who betrayed our Lord for 30 pieces of silver. And the rich man in today's gospel is consumed with his wealth. He sees no one but himself. Purple dye was not cheap. His purple clothing therefore was a statement of standing in the community. Just to look at his attire was to know he was someone wealthy and important. He spared no effort to live well, to look good and to eat heartily. But too much of the good stuff blinded him to the real stuff of life.
Tradition knows this rich man as Dives. And the distance Dives put between himself and Lazarus in this life is the distance that was impassable in the next.
Jesus' story has a way of making the comfortable very uncomfortable. And it should. It is unconscionable to believe for a moment it's all right to forget the poor, to neglect the widow or forsake the memory of those who die alone in the bloody hands of the abortionist.
Mercy is our mission. The face of Jesus is on those who hunger and thirst, need shelter and clothing, are blind and imprisoned. The prodigal son, the broken hearted, the destitute and afflicted; all are like a treasure hidden in the field. Each is just as obscure as Lazarus, who as a poor man would have been satisfied with the scraps from the rich man's table. Our mission is to seek and to save that which is lost. Most of the time, our mission field is immediately before us.
Mercy is evangelical. Our story is Good News! Our story is that Jesus invites sinners into his Kingdom. Not only this, but he loves them, he eats with them and transforms them within his merciful love.
John the Baptist upon facing his martyrdom sent two of his disciples to Jesus to inquire if he truly was the Messiah. And before their eyes Jesus cured many of infirmities, afflictions, and evil spirits; and to many blind he gave sight. Jesus answered and said to them, "Go tell John the thing you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me." (See Luke 7:19-35)
Mercy is redemptive. Jesus came to seek and to save that which is lost. Likewise we are to be vessels of God's mercy. Wrapped up in stuff and things, like Dives, we can become greedy and stingy. Dives failed to love his neighbor as himself. His love for his possessions didn't permit him to be bothered by what Lazarus needed. The dogs had more mercy on Lazarus than Dives. What does that say? Jesus said, "Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven." (Mt. 5:20) And St. Paul reminds us: For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (I Timothy 6:10)
And the poor man died and was CARRIED BY THE ANGLES to Abraham's side. The rich man also died AND WAS BURIED.
Let us pray: Dear Jesus, for my sake you became poor and bequeathed to me the riches of mercy. In your mission of mercy you found me, because of mercy you loved me, and by mercy you transformed me. O the depths of the merciful love Jesus! Amen.