26th Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)
Am. 6:1a, 4-7; Tim. 6:11-16;
The first reading from the prophet Amos already shows us how Yahweh rebuked the wealthy in Israel who did not care for the homeless, the hungry, the sick and the aged among them. Amos graphically portrays their luxurious lives: “beds of ivory,” “eat lambs and calves,” “improvising music with accompaniment,” “drink wine from bowls,” not cups, “anoint with best oils.” Is this not a realistic portrayal of our “rich and famous” right here in the Philippines? And yet, how many of these personalities care for our street children? How many care for our homeless in the slums? In the barrios throughout the country do we have enough schools and health centers? This is to mention only a few things lacking in our country.
The Gospel story is only a confirmation of the attitude in the hearts of many affluent persons as well as a rebuke. This story clearly teaches that, first, there is life after bodily death. Life in this earth may be luxurious and sumptuous but it is no guarantee of similar life in the next. Luke graphically contrasts the situation of the rich and the poor both in this life and in the next. Emphasis is placed on the tongue of the rich: on earth it savors food to the fullest, in Hades it is tormented with thirst. The poor man suffers want of food, clothing, shelter, care; in the next life he enjoys the greatest security and comfort: Abraham’s bosom. The rich man’s behavior reveals that he is truly self-centered. He does not bother to share his abundant food with the hungry, a basic commandment in the Old Testament (Dt 24:19-21). He wallows in fine clothing but cares not for a naked poor (cf. Ex 22:25-26). In the next life he still orders around the poor man he had not helped on earth. Am I such a spoiled brat? Now is the time to check myself or in the next life it may be too late. A second teaching is the existence of a separation, a chasm between Hades and Abraham’s bosom: it is unbridgeable. The situation is irreversible and there is no crossing from one place to the other. There is great contrast of joy and pain and no interchange of locale. It is clear for me then that as I die, so is my eternity. If before death I am convicted of sin, I can repent and be converted, I will be like Lazarus. But if at the moment of death I remain unrepentant and self-centered, I will be like this rich man for all eternity: no bridging of locale, no reversing of situation. This story may look simple but its teaching should make me think and decide here and now. A third teaching is that messengers from the dead do not always produce conversion. We have a common sickness: we are easily attracted to the wonderful and the miraculous. But does this attraction remain as mere curiosity or do we allow it to develop into deeper faith and meaningful discipleship? Attraction and curiosity should only be a stepping stone but often they become an end in themselves. Our intellectual knowledge of the teachings of Jesus must not remain mere knowledge but must be put into practice in daily living. The fourth teaching is that whether in ordinary uneventful life or in extraordinary moments of miracles, we are to heed the teachings of the Church, her calls to repentance and conversion and always strive to live exemplary Christian lives. This is the meaning of “let them hear Moses and the prophets.” The extraordinary and the miraculous are only wake up calls to reawaken faith, while Jesus, the way, the truth and the life, remains in the Church and continues to call us every day.
Our first duty is to be grateful, to count our blessings: “Father, thank you for the material blessings you give me in this life.” Second is to think of our neighbor who is in need: “Teach me to share it with others and to grow in love for others, especially the less fortunate, for your sake.” Yes, next to love of God is love of neighbor; and Jesus even elevates this love: “Love one another as I have loved you.” Thus, let me ask myself: “Am I so self-centered that I do not respond to the needs of others? How do I care for my own parents and siblings? How do I treat my close relatives, my house help, my employees? Love is our passport to eternity. Do I hear Jesus’ call to love through his ministers, preachers, and other prophets? There should be not need of someone coming from the dead to heed Jesus’ call to love. The early Christians were admired: “Look, how they love one another.”