Homily 26th Sunday Year C: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Amos 6:1a, 4-7; Ps 146:7, 8-10; 1 Tim 6:11-16; and Luke 16:19-31
Solidarity with the Poor/Lazarus and Dives/Rich
Last Sunday we began reflecting on the issue of solidarity with the poor. This same issue is insisted upon in today’s Bible readings: Amos, Paul and Luke. It reechoes part of what we have heard before from Saint Francis of Assisi, and from theologians such as, Leonardo Boff, Gustavo Gutierrez, John Sobrino, Dorr and even from Mother Theresa of Calcutta and currently Pope Francis. It’s a message that challenges the Pharisees, those who think that they are entitle to power, money and wealth. It challenges, the faithless, those without conscience and compassion, the unrighteous, and those who are impatience with the poor and refuses to secure justice for them ( Ps 146).
All that we have comes from God and must be shared, since there is always reversal of fortunes. The first could become the last. Those who have big names in this world may end up faceless before God, like the rich man, whose name is not recorded in the Bible, while the name of the faceless-poor, like Lazarus may be boldly printed in God’ dairy. Those who dominate big “gates” in this world may end up “gate-less” in the kingdom of heaven.
Unfortunately this is an age long issue since the time of Amos, middle of the 8th century BC. The reigning kings, politicians and priests were not only proud of their gates, but delighted in maltreating the poor (8:4-7). They preferred to lie on expensive beds, couches made from ivory, and “they eat lambs taken from the flock, and calves from the stall!’ They listen to good music, drink good wines and showered themselves with best perfumes. All these to the expenses of the poor- tax- payers. It is to those who have such an “I don’t care attitude” toward the poor, that Amos says, “woe to the complacent in Zion.”
Ordinary citizen in most part of the world today including United States can imagine the quality of beds, furniture, meals, wine, and couches that homes, hotels, offices, cars and jets of their high ranking elected officials and politicians are decorated with. Ironically, policies from these furnished homes and offices, State Capitals, do not seem to take the plight of ordinary poor- citizen into account. Many have no health insurance, jobs, food, clothing and roof over their heads. Currently, many in the States are waiting at the “gate” of the wealthy, even with the threat of a government shut –down!
Jesus uses this parable of the poor Lazarus waiting at this metaphorical gate of the rich, nameless man to address issues of neglect of the poor and abuse of money and wealth. In this parable Jesus is not condemning all the rich while suggesting that all the poor will all go to heaven. Each parable teaches only one point. Jesus does not question how the rich man got his money or that he has it. Jesus does not condemn hard work. The rich man is not even necessarily a bad man because he worked very hard to earn his wealth legitimately. Remember there are many rich people out there in different parts of the world who are deeply caring persons. They are saddened and dismayed by the high rate of unemployment, student’s loans, broken education system, and inflation figures in our government and society.In fact some of them say rosary, they receive holy communion and visit with the sick.
Also some of our rich people may have been very generous donor to charitable causes and orphanages. But the rich in this gospel parable, whatever else he was, or charity he may have given, he is blind to the person in need who is sitting outside his gate. He is impatient with him. He does not show that he loves him, he cares for him. He is not kind to him. Therefore, he is condemned for his casual indifference to the very person right at his door.
It is quite possible that we have great compassion for the human race while we ignore somebody, some neighbor next door, down the street, or in the office. And I think one of the lessons of these parables is that if you have the resources to help and choose not to, you are judged. The poor are judged as well. Are you grateful when you received? Are you thankful for the little you have? Remember, those who are faithful, thankful, and grateful for the little things will be given more. The poor are to be stewards of what they have as much as the rich or middle class.
The poor can of course be extended from nation to nation. Reading this parable in the light of the events in the United Nations, a friend once said to me, Africa, and other “Third World’ countries or non-industrialized nations could be “Lazarus” at the gate of Industrialized “First World,’ nations.
In fact, arrogance can also accompany wealth and power. We see this in the rich man’s encounter with Abraham and Lazarus in heaven. He thinks he is still behind his mansion with big gate, where he stays to issue orders. Seeing the poor Lazarus in heaven, in the bosom of Abraham he cries out, “Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue for I am suffering torment in these flames.” No where are we told in the text that the poor man complained while suffering in the world, nor does he show off because he is now in heaven! The poor man whether on earth, in front of that rich man’s gate, or in heaven at the bosom of Abraham accepted everything- relying always on God’s providence.
It is this divine providence and trust that we must rely upon. All that we have comes from God- are given to be shared, including the good news of Christ; the message of hope, peace, justice, forgiveness, repentance, kindness and righteousness which saint Paul talks about in today’s Second reading. Paul like Amos and Christ, recommend, that in all circumstances, social, political and religious we must “pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience and gentleness”( 1 Tim 6:11-16).