A Great Chasm
Amos 6:1, 4-7
1 Timothy 6:11-16
By Dr. Scott Hahn
The rich and powerful are visited with woe and exile in today’s Liturgy – not for their wealth but for their refusal to share it; not for their power but for their indifference to the suffering at their door.
The complacent leaders in today’s First Reading feast on fine foods and wines, reveling while the house of Joseph, the kingdom of Israel (see Amos 5:6), collapses around them.
The rich man in today’s Gospel also lives like a king – dressed in royal purple and fine linen (see 1 Maccabees 8:14).
The rich man symbolizes Israel’s failure to keep the Old Covenant, to heed the commandments of Moses and the prophets. This is the sin of the rulers in today’s First Reading. Born to the nation God favored first, they could claim Abraham as their father. But for their failure to give – their inheritance is taken away.
The rulers are exiled from their homeland. The rich man is punished with an exile far greater – eternity with a “great chasm” fixed between himself and God.
In this world, the rich and powerful make a name for themselves (see Genesis 11:4) and dine sumptuously, while the poor remain anonymous, refused an invitation to their feasts.
But notice that the Lord today knows Lazarus by name, and Joseph in his sufferings – while the leaders and the rich man have no name.
Today’s Liturgy is a call to repentance – to heed the warning of One who was raised from the dead. To lay hold of the eternal life He promises, we must pursue righteousness, keep the commandment of love, as Paul exhorts in today’s Epistle.
“The Lord loves the just,” we sing in today’s Psalm.
And in this Eucharist we have a foretaste of the love that will be ours in the next life – when He will raise the lowly to the heavenly banquet with Abraham and the prophets (see Luke 13:28), where we too will rest our heads on the bosom of our Lord (see John 13:23).
‘Who is the Rich Man’
Very few of us can be numbered among the rich and the powerful who have the power to exploit the poor.
So how are we to apply to our own lives the readings for the 25th and 26th Sundays in Ordinary Time (Cycle C), which are so preoccupied with questions of social justice, wealth and poverty?
These readings remind us that the law of love (see John 15:12; Romans 13:8) means that each of us in some way will be judged by the mercy we show to the poor.
As the rich man learns in the parable of Lazarus – the distance between ourselves and God in the next life may be the distance we put between ourselves and the poor in this life (see Matthew 25:31-46; James 2:8,14-17).
But we also need to hear these readings in context of the Gospel message in recent months. Recall that among the stories we’ve heard is that of the teacher who wanted to know, “Who is my neighbor?” (see Luke 10:25-37) and of the rich fool who tried to store up earthly treasures (see Luke 12:13-21).
We may not be “rich men” or exploiters of the poor, but each of us should take to heart the persistent message of the Liturgy – that what we have and desire to have can separate us from God and our neighbor; that our possessions can come to possess us; that true riches are to be found in sharing what we have with the poor; and that this will gain us what we truly desire – the inheritance of treasure in heaven.