Amos 6:1,4-7; 1 Tim. 6,11-16; Luke. 16:16,19-31.
In 701 BC, a rebellion backed by Egypt and Babylonia broke out in Judah, led by King Hezekiah. In response Sennacherib sacked a number of cities in Judah. The Account of Sennacherib’s invasions gives details of the things carried away by Sennacherib. He took 46 of his strong fenced cities; and of the smaller towns which were scattered about, he took and plundered a countless number. From these places he took and carried off 200,156 persons, old and young, male and female, together with horses and mules, asses and camels, oxen and sheep, a countless multitude; and Hezekiah himself he shut up in Jerusalem. Then upon Hezekiah there fell the fear of the power of his arms, and he sent out to the king the chiefs and the elders of Jerusalem with 30 talents of gold and 800 talents of silver, and diverse treasures, a rich and immense booty... All these things were brought to him at Nineveh , the seat of his government.
This invasion destroyed Judah . People have been warned against this punishment by many prophets. Today’s first reading gives an account of prophet Amos’ warning to the People of Judah.
“ Lying on ivory beds
and sprawling on their divans,
they dine on lambs from the flock,….
but about the ruins of Joseph they do not care at all.
That is why they will be the first to be exiled.”
The rich people went on making a show of their wealth adorning their homes with all luxuries. They spent their life in banquets, where the most delicious foods were served, and the best wines provided. The rich people felt secure in their wealth; they had no thought either for God or for the poor. But their joy was short lived. A few years passed and the retribution came upon them. Prophet Amos warned them against their injustice, and they were rightly punished for their evil actions.
In today’s Gospel through the parable of Lazarus and the poor man Jesus puts forward a similar but more demanding message.
First, there is a rich man, clothed in purple and fine linen. He feasted in luxury every day. In a country where the common people were fortunate if they ate a full meal once in the week, and where they toiled for six days of the week. “The rich” is a figure of indolent self indulgence.
The parable does not say that the rich man did something wrong. He did not order Lazarus to be removed from his gate. He had no objection for Lazarus receiving the bread thrown away from his table. He did not insult him. He was not deliberately cruel to him.
What is the sin of the rich man? He just considered him as part of the society. He considered his plight as natural. As it is said, “It was not what the rich man did that got him into hell; it was what he did not do that got him into hell.” The sin of the rich man was that he could not look on the world’s suffering and need and feel no grief or pity. He looked at a fellow man, hungry and in pain, and did nothing about it. The same message is found in the parable of the good Samaritan too. The Priest and the Levite, who saw the wonderful traveler, ignored him.
When we look around us we find sorrow to be comforted, pain to be relieve and hunger to be satisfied. It is terrible warning that the sin of the rich man was not that he did wrong thing, but he did not do the right thing. There are four lessons in today’s Gospel.
The first lesson is: There was a rich man who used to dress in purple and fine linen and feast magnificently every day. He made a show of his wealth. We can also find this group among us too. They build and modify their mansions spending millions. They arrange parties and receptions at the cost of their employees. They hunt for the best cars and the most modern fashionable things. This waste of wealth is when about tone third of the world is reeling in poverty, when parts of the world is suffering from flood, earthquake and other calamities. Indians are well known for their extravagance. According to Ms Sachdev Spending £25,000 by Indians journeying to Bombay from cities that offer less opulent shopping are not unheard of. India has been associated with extravagant spending since the days of the spendthrift maharajas, a set it seems has now been replaced by a similarly status-obsessed middle class. According to Nielsen, the researcher, the country is the third most "brand conscious" country in the world – trailing only Greece and Hong Kong. Closing our eyes against the need of the suffering and indulging in extravagance is a great sin. We also indulge in such activities in smaller scale.
The second lesson is: “And at his gate there lay a poor man called Lazarus, covered with sores.”
In the parables Jesus never gives a name to the characters. Lazarus is the only character in any parable who is given a name. Lazarus means “Yaweh is my help.”
The man was a destitute, hungry and covered with sores; but he kept his dignity. His experience had told him that he had nothing to expect from the abundance of the rich man. Yet, he had kept his trust in God. There are many around us who accept their suffering, poverty and pain, and put their trust in God. Job declared in his suffering, poverty and suffering, “God has given, God has taken. Blessed be the name of God.
In 2 Corinthians 9:8, we're told, "And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work." The psalmist says (Psalms 9:10 ) “And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.”
The third lesson is : the poor man is carried away by the angels to the boson of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. There is a complete reversal of situation. Peace and joy for Lazarus, sorrow and torment for the rich man. Each one’s lot is for good without the faintest hope of change.
Finally, the rich man pleaded to Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his brothers. “They have Moses and prophets” was the reply of Abraham. Abraham does not agree with the insistence of the rich man that the coming of a dead man to life would be moiré convincing than the scriptures. We read the word of God. Listen to the preaching of the word of God. If we are not touched by these, even if all the dead rise from our cemeteries and warn us we will not listen to them. We will invent our own excuses, and we find an interpretation to excuse us from the responsibilities. But Jesus’ teaching is clear. The meaning of the world of God is simple and straight. Listen to it and change our lives.