A southern farmer was called by God to speak a prophetic message to the crooked merchants of Israel who “trample on the needy and destroy the poor of the land”. We heard that message last Weekend. Today Amos is back, blasting the insensitive affluent people of Israel. He stood on the steps of the Temple and blasted the “the complacent people” as they came to offer sacrifice in the Temple.
With stinging sarcasm, Amos described the luxury of the upper class. He spoke of: luxurious “beds of ivory” a status symbol of the rich; feasting on choice meats; goblets of wine weren’t large enough to satisfy them; they drank from bowls; rich, fragrant oils keep their bodies smooth and sleek.
It is their smug complacency – their crass indifference to the vast majority of people – that is the most sickening of all. All around them their fellow Israelites are starving to death – victims of an unjust economic system – and the rich could care less.
The prophet’s sentence of judgment is blunt: these self-satisfied snobs will be the first to go into exile in Babylon. In 587 BC the prophecy was fulfilled, and the people were dragged off on a 500-mile journey to the concentration camps of exile in Babylon.
In the Gospel today, Jesus up–dates Amos’ message, and applies his message to Jesus’s day and beyond – even to us. The description of the rich man parallels the “complacent rich in Zion”. He dresses in the most expensive royal purple and fine linen. He feasts sumptuously, not just on big occasions; but every day.
The homeless beggar at his gate lies in filthy rags, his stomach growling for scraps of garbage from the rich man’s table. Eventually, they both died. Lazarus the beggar rests in the bosom of Abraham – he is happy and fulfilled in God. The rich man is in the torturing flames of hell, not because he was rich, but because he was indifferent to the existence of Lazarus – the poor beggar at his door.
For the rich man, Lazarus didn’t even exist; he was not even a fellow human – being. He was just “poor trash.” Then, from Hell, the rich man – totally cut – off, completely isolated with no hope of deliverance – was still arrogant and giving orders. He still views Lazarus as a servant to be used: – “Send him to my brother’s house.”
But the answer, recorded by Luke is meant to be a warning for all of us. The five brothers already had a warning in the scriptures, in Moses, and in the prophets – men like AMOS. If the brothers ignored the prophets, they were not going to pay any attention even to Jesus Risen from the Dead.
When Saint Luke wrote his Gospel, the early Christians were acquainted with the prophets: Moses had come and gone, and Jesus had risen from the dead, yet people still ignored the message. Sadly, our society today is still ignoring the message!
Our culture no longer respects the teaching of the Catholic Church – in fact, the world laughs at and mocks our Faith. Many of our Catholic people fall prey to Fundamentalist Churches because they have no foundation in the teachings of Jesus – their Faith is weak and minimal. Our culture & government promotes ideals and morality which are directly contrary to the law of God. Our Faith is still being persecuted in many countries, and the blood of martyrs is continuously being spilled for the sake of the Kingdom of God.
Society today, and even many of our own Catholic people want Christ without the Church, the Shepherd without the flock, to believe without belonging to the community of Believers, the King without the Kingdom, or Christ without the Cross.
Society today sees no need for God and the Church. Our Society bombards us with the lure of materialism – more things will make us happy and whatever gives us pleasure is good – with little or no regard for the consequences. Who is the rich man in the parable today? Jesus didn’t give him a name, but maybe we can – possibly even our own.
This weekend, the Church again invites each of us to examine our lives – our personal value systems and the principles by which we live. In the Second Reading, Saint Paul wrote to Timothy and said: “Man of God, seek after integrity… take a firm hold on the everlasting life to which you were called.”
What is integrity? It’s following the moral law given to us by God. It’s being honest, fair, merciful, patient, kind, considerate, and sensitive. It’s not only being interested in our own well-being but in the well-being of everybody else. It’s not only noticing people in third world countries who are in need but those who are at our own gates.
The Jesus who speaks to us from the Gospel today is deeply concerned about our future. Are we?