TWENTY-SIXTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (2022)/108th WORLD DAY OF MIGRANTS AND REFUGEES
Amos 6:1A, 4-7
1 Timothy 6:11-16
Some of the parables that the liturgy provides for us over the last few weeks have been addressed to the crowds following Jesus to Jerusalem, others were addressed to a smaller number of listeners, like His disciples. In today’s gospel the Scriptures are clear that Jesus is speaking directly to the Pharisees. Given the economic tenor of the last few week’s gospels it might be simple to see a corrective to today’s gospel with a simple generous donation to the poor, but there are some things that cannot be fully solved by money. Indeed, the depth of the rich man’s disregard for Lazarus (and probably all poor people!), is what is really at the heart of Jesus’ entire good news.
Amos, a prophet for the poor and disenfranchised, makes it clear that the ‘wanton revelry” of the Israelites will not be forgotten. “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…. 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.” Amos sets the stage by which to judge the rich man. His fault is not a one time omission; his fault is one of lifestyle.
And what would that lifestyle be for a “man of God”? Our second reading from Paul’s letter to Timothy makes it clear who a “man of God” is: “You, man of God, pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. Compete well for the faith. Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called when you made the noble confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you before God, who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus,… to keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ.” It is clear throughout Jesus’ ministry that He is trying to change hearts, and that He has (and we should have) a special love for the poor and disenfranchised. So much rides on Jesus’ ability to change hearts if His Kingdom is ever to be established on earth.
The nameless “rich man” (although frequently referred to as Dives) is fittingly introduced by the prophet Amos, a person “who dines sumptuously” every day, all the while Lazarus lays outside his front door, laden with sores and in the company of dogs. We are given the impression that the rich man never took any note of Lazarus until he recognized him across the deep divide that separates the netherworld (a place of torment) from the home of Abraham and other Godly men. One senses the shock of the rich man; there has to have been some mistake! While Lazarus is seen enjoying the hospitality of Abraham, a hospitality he never enjoyed camping outside of the rich man’s house, the rich man suffers the torment of flames. His immediate inclination is to treat Lazarus like a servant, and he asks Abraham to send Lazarus for a tiny bit of water to come and cool his tongue. When he learns that that cannot happen, he is concerned about his brothers, who likely consider themselves “privileged,” and are as unconcerned as their rich brother about anyone less fortunate. At least if Abraham makes the effort to tell them to have more concern for the poor, they might avoid the horrors of the netherworld. But in the most uncomfortable of ways, Abraham makes it quite clear that if the brothers don’t “listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded (to change their ways) if someone should rise from the dead.” We have more than Moses and the prophets to make us aware of the need to be solicitous of the poor, we have the teachings of the Lord Jesus, the very God who did indeed, “rise from the dead,” that we might avoid the punishments of the netherworld.
There is every indication that the rich man possessed a blatant disregard for anyone who could not be useful to him. Lazarus was unimportant to him because he could not add to his status, he was a mess physically, and an embarrassment to him emotionally. It wasn’t just a matter of not sharing his worldly goods with Lazarus (which he appeared to have plenty of), he was completely self-obsessed. The rich man totally ignored Lazarus because he felt he didn’t deserve to exist, he was of no use to anyone, he was nothing but a beggar who could not even take care of himself.
On this World Day of Migrants and Refugees, our second reading and gospel have much to say to those who would put migrants on planes and buses just to garner political influence. They are merely used as pawns in a political chess game which doesn’t acknowledge their innate worth as human beings. Such actions, done by so-called Catholics, is not pursuing “righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness,” spoken of by Jesus and Paul. If Jesus were telling the same parable today, perhaps He might have had the rich man bodily remove Lazarus and be placed on the front porch of some unknown person, living in a town far away. Just what might that have done for Lazarus? Nothing!
Why should we care for the poor? The prophet Amos makes it clear that God is aware of the injustice done to the poor. Because the poor have no one else to defend them, our God promises that He will stand up for them. God will judge harshly those who have failed to see justice done for the powerless. When we stand before our loving God, we want to be sure that we did all we could in this life to be on the side of the little ones whom God cares so much about.
In his commentary on this Sunday’s readings, Douglas Sousa, STL, states:
“Concern for the poor is not only good religion, it is also sound politics. Government should be on the side of the needy. Wealthy people can take care of themselves. It is the poor who need the government to defend them against those who would exploit them. Also, as the saying goes, “Everyone does better when everyone does better.” When the hungry are fed, when the homeless have shelter, when the penniless get an education there is less crime, less disease, and less restlessness in society. We all benefit when the common good is served…. As followers of Christ, we are called to bring the good news of God’s love wherever we go including into the public square and the voting booth. In particular, we are called to announce God’s love for the poor. Then God’s kingdom will increasingly influence the earthly city making His peace and justice more of a reality in our world today.”
Somewhere in the early nineteen-hundreds, a young polish woman, made the difficult and momentous decision to escape the deteriorating conditions in Warsaw and, with her husband, who would later leave her, make the journey to the United States, following the dream of a better life. In the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, on Ellis Island, she would be welcomed to the United States. She would settle down and begin to raise a family, never fully understanding that the troubles in the home country would make their way to the States, and she would be called to send three of her sons back to Europe to fight Hitler’s aggression. That polish woman was my grandmother. I, like so many, am the second-born generation of immigrants. How lucky I am that Anna followed her dreams. May migrants and immigrants everywhere never be prevented from following their dreams.