26th Sunday 

September 25, 2022

I re-read the last sentence of last week’s gospel: “You cannot serve both God and Mammon.”  In Aramaic, the word “mammon” refers to money, wealth and possessions.

Medieval Christians regarded the word as the name of a demon who lead people to covetousness, a desire to have and keep and amass more than is needed.

Our first reading condemns and criticizes the 8th century before Jesus Jewish people who made great displays of ritual devotion to God while failing to pursue fairness, justice and righteousness.  You may enjoy prestige and comfort now, the prophet said, but you will be first to go into Exile.  So, they were taken by the Assyrian superpower, and again, by the Babylonians three hundred years later.  “Their wanton revelry shall be done away,” Amos curses.

Every year, during the Christmas holiday season, people go to see the Charles Dickens play, “The Christmas Carol.” The selfish Ebenezer Scrooge refuses to pay decent wages and is cruel.  He is described as “nearly ice from the inside out.”

“Bah Humbug,” Scrooge would say to Jesus, a word that means “nonsense.”  As Jesus invites us today to be aware of the poor, all kinds of poor for all kinds of reasons.

The name “Lazarus” means “God will help.”  We remember something attributed to Ben Franklin but actually has its origin in an ancient Greek proverb, “God helps those who help themselves” and could be used as a reason to help no one who is poor.

God is always trying to break through hard hearts and heads full of self to enter truly into the purpose of life and relationship – to do what is good, just and right.

Today, Jesus tells that the very poor and neglected and abandoned will be brought by angels to the bosom of Abraham – to the place of complete comfort and rest.

In today’s story, Abraham replies to the rich man that he received everything that he wanted during his lifetime without any care for anyone else, especially the poor.

For such lack of awareness and disinterest in helping anyone, he ends up with nothing.  The picture is torment in flames.  That is certainly a scary thought!

I don’t believe we should get caught up in the theatrics of the future.  I would think the worse outcome would be to cease to exist, to be nowhere, without anything or anyone.  That would be a more fitting “hell.”

I think that the real sin is a total lack of insensitivity and disregard and care about anyone except oneself.  Is money, pride, ego, superiority, prejudice, more important than our connection to others and helpful support to others?

Jesus tells us this story to get our attention and to shake us up.

I see the unkempt man walking in the Safeway shopping center.  I observe his poorness.  Would he receive my help?  I don’t know because I have never stopped to ask.  I know that often, it is reported that many persons in those circumstances are mentally or emotionally unable to receive help.

Would Jesus consider that an excuse?  In heaven one day, will we see the poor sitting around Jesus and find ourselves in an outer ring?

In any case, Jesus is not going to threaten us with a belt or a switch.  He says that we have Moses and the Prophets.  And then, there are social agencies and non-profits that do help.  But then there is each one of us.

Perhaps, we can start by looking around and being aware, where do we see the poor?  Do we want to search them out?  They may not be bedraggled or poor looking.  They may be living next door.  It may not be their economics; it may be their isolation or their illness or a deteriorating ego.

Here is a last piece of advice from the author of the letter to the Hebrews: “Continue to love each other like brothers and sisters, and remember always to welcome strangers, for by doing this, some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:1-2)

Who is lying at your door?  Or even in your home or among your family?  Everyone is poor.  Everyone needs life and relationships and love and help.  Those we help will help carry us to the bosom of Abraham!

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