Reflections on the Scriptures for Sunday 25 September 2016 (Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time)
Amos 6:1a,4-7; Psalm 146:7-10; 1 Timothy 6:11-16; Luke 16:19-31 Find the readings here.
Amos would probably be labelled ‘hard left’ in today’s political landscape. The 8th century BC prophet of social justice wasn’t particularly poor himself – he was an owner of sheep rather than just a lowly shepherd looking after someone else’s animals, but his relatively comfortable position hadn’t blinded him to the plight of those on the wrong side of power. He describes the kind of lifestyle that we goggle over as we page through glossy magazines, a life of ease, opulence and creativity. What sickens him isn’t the wealth per se, it is the complacency and utter blindness to the lives and struggles of so many. We live in a world where the gap between rich and poor is increasing exponentially, where more and more are struggling to survive. In Ireland where I live, the homelessness crisis is one visible manifestation of that. Amos warns the wealthy that they will be the first to feel the effects of the calamity coming down the tracks – in his day the destruction of Samaria by the Assyrians. But that is often not how it is. Pope Francis has drawn attention to how it is the vulnerable and those made poor who are most adversely affected by the effects of consumerist and energy-hungry lifestyles on the Earth, our common home.
As the Christian family across the world gathers to worship, to sing and listen to Scripture, to respond to and be shaped by the Gospel, to meet and be transformed by the risen Christ, will we be open to the challenging words that Jesus speaks? In today’s psalm we celebrate the God who secures justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry, protects the stranger and sets the captives free. If we, whether through what we do or what we fail to do, are not joining in this mission of God to bring life and wholeness to all the world, then ours are the ‘ways’ which the Lord will thwart, not bless. Did you notice how the rich man in Jesus’ parable was oblivious to the plight of Lazarus? He wasn’t actively oppressing him, just ignoring him and benefitting from the system that left Lazarus without hope in the world. The familial language used in the parable – “Father Abraham” ……. “My child” … – really strikes me. This rich man is not the evil opponent of God but the callously complacent ignorer of the ‘least of these’, those whom God loves. When the Kingdom is revealed in its fullness, what light will it shine on our own lives, individually and corporately?
I’ve also reflected on these readings in “The Rich Man and Lazarus”