We are now in the 26th week of Ordinary Time. The readings today serve as a warning that the selfish and extravagant use of God’s blessings, such as wealth, without sharing them with the poor and the needy, is a serious sin. As God shares His life and His blessings with us we must share those God–given blessings generously with others. Saint Theresa of Calcutta said that our blessings double when we share. The readings for this week clearly stress the Covenant responsibility of the rich to the poor; we are all called to share and care for one another, especially the less privileged. The readings remind us of the truth that wealth without active mercy for the poor is great wickedness.
Amos, in the first reading, issues a powerful warning to those who seek wealth at the expense of others, especially the poor, and to those who spend their time and money on themselves without caring about anyone but themselves. Amos prophesies that those rich and self-indulgent people will be exiled as punishment by God because of their lack of concern and compassion for their poor and suffering brothers.
The second reading is both an inspiration as well as a warning from St. Paul to Timothy. Paul reminds Timothy, the priest and Bishop, of the faith Timothy had confessed at his Baptism, of his obligation to “pursue righteousness, devotion, love, patience and gentleness,” and of his ongoing call to bear witness to Christ as a loyal teacher and practitioner of the Faith. Paul further explains what it means to grow in the faith. It means being faithful to the teachings handed down, the pursuit of virtue, and the keeping of the commandments. Having exhorted Timothy to virtue and faith, Paul makes a powerful proclamation of Jesus as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The message for us is that we need to live our faith. One powerful way of living our faith is by generously sharing our talents and resources with others. Paul encourages the pursuit of these values over material wealth.
In the Gospel reading, Jesus gives us a warning, pointing to the destiny of the rich man who neglected his duty to show mercy to poor Lazarus. The rich man was punished—not for his sin of commission, as the Gospel does not say that he was a wicked man—but for his sin of omission, in not doing what he was supposed to do. The purpose of this parable was to warn the Pharisees against the love of money and to rebuke them for their lack of compassion for the poor. The parable also offers an invitation to each one of us to be conscious of the sufferings of those around us, especially the poor, and to share our God–given blessings generously with others. As St. Theresa of Calcutta aptly put it, the way to show gratitude to God for His many blessings is by sharing them with others.
This parable teaches us several important lessons. It reminds us that eventually all of us will experience God’s justice after our death when we are asked to give an accounting of our lives—how well did we use the gifts and talents bestowed on us by God? This story also points to the Law and the Prophets as ways to learn how to practice righteousness and sacrificial sharing. It reminds us to look ahead to our resurrection and to the reality that the people who fail to heed warnings and die unrepentant will suffer for it. God permits injustices for people to learn and grow in this life, but not in the next one. Perhaps the main lesson of this parable is that self-love is total moral depravity, and that making self-gratification one’s supreme goal in life does not merely lead to sin—it is the epitome of sin. However, God rewards our kind acts, no matter how small. As noted in Matthew, Chapter 5, the reward is eternal life, “Rejoice and be glad for your reward will be great in heaven.”