In the beginning, God made everything good, for everyone. God’s will is that all of creation may live in harmony, and that all women and men may live life to the full. But our history and present situation show how God’s will is contradicted. In the face of this, the Word of God continues to be a social critique, and a call to personal conversion.
The Prophet Amos (Amos 6:1a.4-7) rebuked the leaders of their time, who unjustly enriched themselves, and wantonly indulged in the pleasures of the world, leaving the people in poverty, and exposing them to plunderers. The rebuke of Amos is relevant to us, people of today, as it was then.
In the Letter (1Timothy 6:11-16), which becomes clearer when read it with the context (1Tim 6:7-10 and 1Tim 6, 17-19) St. Paul admonishes Timothy to trust not in wealth, but in God, only in God. Those who trust in riches are bound to ruin. The admonition is not only for Timothy, but for us as well.
Jesus in today’s Gospel (Luke 16:19-31) reproached the Pharisees for their love of money, and their wanton disregard of the suffering people. The Pharisees claimed as their birthright, privileges now and in the world to come. The Pharisees desired wealth for pleasure, ignoring the needs of other people. They were content in legalistic practices, without lifting a finger to unburden the poor. They were reveled in comfort, and considered the poor, and the unjust practices perpetuating poverty as normal, and so they did nothing to condemn them, much less, do something to curb the system and alleviate their condition.
The parable of the rich man and Lazarus is a vivid portrayal of this wanton disregard, and the ultimate reversal of fortunes – not as a threat but as a reminder, and yes, a warning. The rich man, traditionally called Dives (Latin for “rich”) lived in affluence – comfortable dwellings, expensive clothing and daily feasting, surrounded by rich acquaintances and servants, while Lazarus (Latinized form of Eleazar, meaning “God is my help.”), the poor man – stayed at his gate, most likely almost naked, perpetually hungry, the dogs that licked his sores as his only company. But when both die, Dives plunges into hell, and Lazarus is brought up by angels to the abode of Abraham.
Dives was condemned not because he was rich. Lazarus was not rewarded because he was poor. Affluence is not a sin; poverty is not a blessing. Dives was condemned not for something he did, but for what he did not do. Dives was condemned because he did not help Lazarus when he was in the best position to do so. Instead, his love for wealth and his revelry closed his mind and heart to Lazarus. Lazarus was just at the gate of his house, but he did not even bother to give him even of the bread crumbs that fall from his table which was always brimming with sumptuous servings (The rich of that time did not have napkins, so they used bread to wipe their hands. They did not eat this; this is to clean off from their hands the fat of roasted calf!). In his filthy affluence, he was blind to the plight of the poor Lazarus, who was so weak and helpless he cannot even ward off the dogs licking his wounds. Lazarus was rewarded because in his poverty, weakness and helplessness, he held on to God as his only help and hope.
Jesus reminds (and maybe even reproaches) us too, in our complacency and apathy.
We have in one way or another been blessed – yes, for ourselves and for our family, but ALSO for others. We are blessed so that we in turn may be a blessing to others.