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Scripture Reflections - September 25
26th Sunday of Ordinary Time

READINGS
Amos 6:1a, 4-7
1 Timothy 6:11-16
Luke 16:19-31

Archives Msgr Paul E. Whitmore
Msgr. Paul E. Whitmore

Five years ago, Pope Francis canonized Mother Teresa of Calcutta, although the world had already considered her a saint since her death in 1997. She spent most of her life giving human dignity to the poor and the dying. Her example left us little excuse to ignore those in desperate poverty of soul and body all round us. The readings this Sunday show what Jesus thought of the indifference of the rich and comfortable.

In the first reading, the prophet Amos paints a picture of the wealthy rulers of Israel, lying on their beds of ivory, and drinking wine from bowls, completely oblivious to the near collapse of the kingdom. God is condemning their indifference, their selfishness, their lack of discipline, and their disobedience to His commandments. The northern kingdom is soon destroyed by Assyria.

In the Gospel, Jesus tells us a story of Dives and Lazarus. The scene opens on the street in front of Dives’ front door. There lies the beggar, Lazarus, in tattered clothes that scarcely cover his open sores. The door opens, and the well-fed guests of Dives emerge, laughing loudly as they depart from their daily banquet. Then Dives comes out. Having bid good-bye to the last guest, he decides to take an evening walk. Like his guests, Dives steps over the beggar not even looking at him. He doesn’t kick or abuse him. He just doesn’t pay any attention.

The next scene is some years later. In the upper right, we see Lazarus in heavenly glory, courted by the angels, reclining at table with the patriarch, Father Abraham. In the lower left, we see Dives, in the torments of hell, looking longingly at the heavenly feast in the distance.

Why is Dives in hell? Not because he is rich. Jesus, in telling the story, never condemns him for that. Why, then? Because he never thought to share his riches with this poor beggar who lay outside his door day after day. He never offered him some of the leftovers, never inquired about his health, never offered him employment. What a difference he could have made in the life of Lazarus. He might have gotten to know him better and given help to Lazarus’ wife and children. Who knows? They might even have become friends!

God’s warnings in Scripture apply to every age. Who are we stepping over? It's not a question of how much money we have, but how willing we are to share with those who have nothing. The rich man's sin was first of all a lack of awareness of the poor man right at his door. If we are Christians who are to care for others as brothers and sisters, then we can't be ignorant of their plight. We must do our best to learn about their needs, and in some small way discover how we can share what we have. As Mother Teresa was fond of saying, “Do little things with great love, and make the Eucharist the center of your lives.”

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