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September, 25 2016

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

Rev Timothy P. Schehr

 

Twenty Sixth Sunday                                                             Rev. Timothy P. Schehr

Amos 6:1-7; 1 Timothy 6:11-16; Luke 16:19-31

            “Compete well for the faith” This is Paul’s advice to Timothy in the second reading for this Sunday. Paul is speaking from experience He did some competing of his own.  As he says later, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim 3:7).

            People in the days of the prophet Amos would have benefitted from Paul’s pen. Amos had a whole town of complacent people to deal with. They were not interested in competing spiritually at all. Amos reprimands them for their self-centered life-style. Their ivory furniture, their fine food and wine. They even flatter themselves on their musical abilities, comparing  themselves to King David. Not quite! David composed beautiful hymns of praise to God. It seems God is far from the minds of these people.  What will become of them?  Amos knows. They will be the first to go into exile. Amos is not being vindictive here. He is reminding them of the very things Moses had warned of when the Israelites entered the Promised Land from Egypt. He warned them never to forget what God had given. If they began enjoying the bounty of the land without gratitude to God they would lose the land and go into exile. It would be a hard lesson. But exile would teach them all over again to rely on God and not on themselves.

            Paul and Amos want to see people actively engaged in doing the things of God. Their message is a good lead-in to the gospel for this Sunday in which Jesus continues to address people who love money. He knows what an obstacle money can be to the spiritual journey. His earlier parable of the crafty steward concluded with a challenge to use the things of this world to make friends with God (Lk 16:1-9). Now comes the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. It comes as a bit of a surprise that Luke alone among the evenalglesits records this one. Perhaps the others thought Luke did it best.

            Jesus first draws our attention to a certain rich man. He has no name, at least not in Luke’s telling of it. Tradition has given him the name Dives, the Latin Vulgate word for rich. We see Dives dressed in purple and fine linen. Purple dye was very pricey in those days. So right away we see this man enjoying wealth and comfort. On top of that he dines sumptuously every days on fine foods.

            Then Jesus shifts our attention to another man. Right away we are moved with compassion.  We get a name, we know his inner feelings, and we even get the detail about the dogs that surround him. The lyrics of a traditional hymn about Dives and Lazarus include the detail that Dives sent his dogs out to bite Lazarus. But they could not and instead licked his sores.

            The Lord’s parable gives us a view of this world from the vantage- point of heaven. But with his view limited to this world the rich man appears to have all the advantages in life. Poor Lazarus is out there all alone. The rich man cannot be bothered to reach out to Lazarus who sits right at his doorstep. However, everything changes on the other side of time. Now the rich man wants nothing more than to connect in some way with Lazarus and have him touch him with a drop of water. He would even be pleased to have Lazarus serve as a messenger for his brothers, warning them not to make the same mistakes he did. But God has already provided them with plenty of messenger in this world. If  they choose not to listen, even someone rising from the dead could not motivate them to change. Abraham reminds the rich man of the great chasm that now separates the two of them. The short distance in this life is replaced with a wide gap in the next. The Lord teaches his disciples to reach out to each other in this world while we can and  to make every effort to see the world from God’s viewpoint.

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