Am 6:1a, 4-7; 1Tm 6:11-16; Lk 16: 19-31
The local United Way office realized that it had never received a donation from one of the town’s richest citizens, a very successful lawyer. A local volunteer was sent to solicit his donation. The volunteer approached the lawyer, commenting, “our research shows that even though your annual income is over a million dollars, you have never helped support our organization. Wouldn’t it make you feel good to give back to your community through The United Way?”
The lawyer paused for a moment, then sternly stated, “Did your research show that my mother is dying after a long, painful illness and has huge medical bills far beyond her ability to pay?” Surprised, the United Way volunteer mumbled, “Uh, no.” “Well then, did your research show that my brother is a disabled veteran? That he is blind? That he is confined to a wheelchair and is unable to support his wife and six children?” “Did your research tell you that my sister’s husband died in a dreadful traffic accident?” The lawyer’s voice was loud and indignant. The United Way representative felt embarrassed to have assumed that the man was selfish, and stammered apologetically, “I had no idea.”
The lawyer sternly concluded, “And they are my family. My flesh and blood. If I don’t give any money to any of them, why in the world should I give any to you?”
Dear Friends! The main theme of this Sunday’s readings is the warning that selfish and extravagant use of God’s blessings, like wealth, without sharing them with the poor and the needy is a serious sin deserving eternal punishment. Today’s readings stress the Covenant responsibility of the rich for the poor reminding 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 the poor and who spend their time and their money on themselves. The Psalm praises Yahweh, who cares for the poor. In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives us a warning, pointing to the destiny of the rich man who neglected his duty to show mercy to poor Lazarus.
What we do to others we do to God. What we do to others we do to Jesus. We could say that in many different ways the Gospels put this teaching before us and once again today the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) asks to reflect on this amazing fact. What we do to others we do to God. What we do to others we do to Jesus. The rich man is not condemned for being rich. Instead he is condemned because he did not show charity to a poor man called Lazarus. Lazarus wanted just the scraps from the rich man’s table but we are given the impression that he didn’t receive even the scraps.
If poverty makes a person subhuman, an excess of wealth can make him inhuman; we Catholics are asked not allow this to happen. John Wesely’s rule of life was to save all he could and give all he could. When he was at Oxford, he had an income of £30 a year. He lived on 28 and gave 2 away; when his income increased to £ 60, 100, and £120, he still lived on £28 and gave the balance away.
Some might say: “Jesus ‘ parable of the rich man is not addressed to me, for I am not rich.” This is a mistake in interpreting the significance of the parable. This parable is just about money. Though we may not be materially rich, we all still have something to share with others in need. Therefore the real question to ask is not “Am I rich?” but “Who is sitting at my ‘gate’ begging, not necessarily for bread but, may be, for a word of recognition or appreciation, for a bit of companionship or fellowship, a little bit of love or forgiveness?” And the time to give is now.
Let me close with these words of Pope John Paul II. On Oct 2, 1979 at Yankee Stadium in New York he said: “We cannot stand idly by, enjoying our own riches and freedom, if in any place the Lazarus of the 20th century stands at our doors. In the light of the parable of Christ, riches and freedom mean a special responsibility. Riches and freedom create a special obligation.
“And so, in the name of solidarity that binds us together in the common humanity, I again proclaim the dignity of every human person. The rich man and Lazarus are both human beings, both of them equally created in the image and likeness of God, both of them equally redeemed by Christ at the great price, the price of precious blood of Christ…”
“The poor of the United States and of the world are your brothers and sisters in Christ. You must never be content to leave them just the crumbs of the feast.
“You must take of your substance, and not just of your abundance, in order to help them. And you must treat them like guests at your family table.”