Both of the readings for mass today talk about people who have a really nice life. We are sometimes a bit envious of people who live in expensive homes, have the latest luxury car and designer clothes and eat out at the best restaurants in town. They fly overseas for extended, exotic vacations while you are lucky to get a few days off work to take your family to visit relatives or maybe drive to a nearby attraction, like a national park or the beach. Wealthy people not only have a nice lifestyle, but they often live longer too, because they can afford to eat the very best, healthiest foods and receive the best medical care that money can buy.
Both of the readings for mass today talk about the lifestyles of wealthy people. God told the people in the first reading “Woe to the complacent in Zion! Lying upon beds of ivory, stretched comfortably on their couches, they eat lambs taken from the flock and calves from the stall!” It goes on to say “They drink wine from bowls and anoint themselves with the best oils.” God then says they will be the first to go into exile and their wanton revelry shall be done away with.
Jesus has an even harsher warning for the wealthy in today’s gospel. We all know the story of Lazarus and the rich man. Lazarus was the beggar who lay at the rich man’s door and longed to eat the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table, but he never got any. Lazarus was sick with sores on his body and it sounds like he couldn’t afford to see a doctor, but when he died, he was carried away by angels. When the rich man died, he went to a place of torment and cried out for Lazarus to cool his tongue because of his suffering. The situation has reversed itself. This time it wasn’t Lazarus who called out for scraps of food from the rich man, it was the rich man who now cried out to Lazarus. Abraham told him that there is a great chasm that is established to prevent people from crossing over to the other side though. And no, no one could go back and warn the living because they have already been told and they aren’t listening.
There is such a thing as divine justice. God intended things to be this way, or else he would not have created a great chasm to separate the good from the evil in the afterlife. Like the rich man in today’s gospel, we do not have the right to play God. Divine Justice must be satisfied, not our own personal desires. A lot of people think they can control not only their own lives, but other people’s lives and maybe even God’s will too, but that just isn’t the case. The only thing we can really control is our own life. No one has the right to play God with another person’s life.
God’s justice, or the thought of hell is very difficult for most people to even think about, yet Christ mentions hell more than he does heaven in the bible. Jesus wanted to make sure we knew that hell is real. Even our Creed says that after Jesus died, he descended into hell. But, Jesus did not tell us this to threaten us or scare us. It is like having a small child that a parent loves so much that he tries to teach children not to step into the road in front of the cars driving by, because they could be killed. Jesus loves us enough to try and warn us of the dangers we could face in eternal life if we do not heed his words.
The main point in both of the readings for mass today though, is complacency. All of us are susceptable to getting involved in our own little world and tuning out those around us. We get caught up in our little patterns of living and learn to focus our attention on the things that concern us, and tune out the things that do not concern us. We view the world through a lens of “what does this have to do with me?” But, the Lord Jesus is trying to call our attention to the fact that we are all our brother’s keeper. We should be just as concerned about the needs of those around us, as we are with our own. In fact, that was the second great commandment that Jesus gave us “to love your neighbor, as you love yourself”.
This week, maybe we could make an effort to notice those around us a little more than usual, especially the people we live and work with everyday. That includes the clergy and religious in our lives too. The people that are closest to us are often the easiest to overlook when they are suffering, because they are so familiar to us. Things like suicides and divorce can sometimes be prevented by talking to one another more and being involved in one another’s lives, even if it isn’t a close family member or friend. Teenagers and young people are also especially vulnerable to suffering and the adults in their lives may not even notice it. This week, let’s notice those around us a little more than usual and see if there is anything we can do to help alleviate some of their suffering.
Am 6: 1A, 4-7
Ps 146: 7-10
1 Tm 6: 11-16
Lk 16: 19-31