Monday, September 30, 2013

A Little Something Extra...Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

How's Your Life?

Last week's readings focused on money. This week, we're asked to examine how we live. The First Reading from Amos 6 shows us what not to do. Preaching to the Northern Kingdom of Israel in the 8th century B.C., Amos is disgusted by the luxurious indulgence of the people. God is even more annoyed than Amos, and speaking through His prophet, He addresses the issue.

Woe to the complacent in Zion!
Lying upon beds of ivory,
stretched comfortably on their couches,
they eat lambs taken from the flock,
and calves from the stall!
Improvising to the music of the harp,
like David, they devise their own accompaniment.
They drink wine from bowls
and anoint themselves with the best oils;
yet they are not made ill by the collapse of Joseph!
Therefore, now they shall be the first to go into exile,
and their wanton revelry shall be done away with. 

The people are complacent. They think nothing bad will ever happen to the them, and they ignore the poverty and misery at their doorsteps. Instead, they focus on “the good life,” enjoying their comfortable homes and possessions, eating fine foods, being entertained, drinking wine, and paying careful attention to their personal appearance. 

But this will change. Their luxury will turn to ashes. God warns them that they will be the first to go into exile, and indeed, when the Northern Kingdom was invaded by the Assyrians, the upper classes were the first to be carried off by their conquers. 

Psalm 146 paints an opposite picture, describing a life lived according to God's will and in imitation of God's mercy. A person striving after such a life will hold tightly to faith, secure justice for the oppressed, and feed the hungry. Just as God does, such a person will do his best to give sight to the blind, raise up those who are bowed down, protect strangers, and serve as an advocate for orphans and widows. What a difference from the First Reading! 

The Second Reading from the First Letter to Timothy drives home the point. The life God expects is filled with righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness, not fine food and drink, expensive possessions, and luxurious parties. St. Paul solemnly charges Timothy, and us, to embrace God's way, to compete well for the faith, and to lay hold of eternal life. This is the Christian life.

Jesus offers us a parable in the Gospel that perfectly illustrates the lessons from the other readings. There was once a rich man who lived like the people described by the prophet Amos. He ate well and dressed in fine clothes. On the other side of his gate was a very poor man named Lazarus. He was starving and covered in sores. Even the dogs tried to comfort him, but the rich man took no notice. 

Both Lazarus and the rich man died, but very different things happened to them after death. Lazarus went to enjoy the comforts of his father Abraham while the rich man suffered torments. Abraham explained to the rich man that Lazarus had suffered much during life while he had received every good thing. Now their roles were reversed. The patient Lazarus is happy and content while the uncaring rich man suffers. Herein lies the warning. How's your life?

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