Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
The readings from this reflection: Am 6:1a, 4-7; Ps 146:7, 8-10; 1Tm 6:11-16; Lk 16:19-31
The emphasis of riches and wealth in the Gospel account of Luke is overwhelmingly obvious to any reader of the Gospel. As in previous Sundays in this liturgical cycle, Jesus invites three groups of persons to be aware of the blessings that riches or wealth provide but also reminds that whatever riches or gifts we possess, each has its source in God. The three groups highlighted in the Gospel according to Luke are the disciples of Jesus, the Pharisees, and the crowds that followed Jesus with no specific desire of committing themselves to the Gospel proclaimed. To paraphrase the words of a little-known writer, Tony Evans, our only source is God, and the riches we have and the gifts we possess are all resources that flow from that one source. Recognizing this will help us appreciate their value in our lives as we seek to be stewards of these blessings from God.
Our Gospel passage this weekend highlights this fact in a vivid way and how we need to be aware of this, especially in our relationship with our brothers and sisters. The parable points out two principal characters both described in an interesting way in our Scriptural translation. First, there is “a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day.” Jesus does not give a name to this rich man, but rather describes him by his lifestyle and actions. However, the second character in the story is given a name, Lazarus, which means: God is my helper. But, he is also described according to his situation: “a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table.” The interesting detail we immediately see here is that both are described in relationship within the situation of another.
As Catholic Christians, one basic tenet of living our call is that like every other human being on the face of the planet, our lives are connected and we are not independent of others in living out our faith. I am a Christian in relationship to my brothers and sisters in the parish, and so are you. Our Christian lives are not independent of others but connected to the lives and situations of others, whether it is a family member, a friend, a fellow parishioner, or a stranger. We are all very much connected to each other. Hence, when we receive gifts from God, whatever the gifts, the word of God reminds us that there is a mission attached to the gift or riches we possess. Granted, sometimes it is hard for us to see the mission, but if you are a Christian and encounter another person, God’s primary purpose is for us to be witnesses to another. However, this does not mean that we will always fulfill this role of witnessing perfectly, but, the invitation is always to not take for granted our vocation as witnesses and stewards.
The rich man forgot the source of his riches and when the parable ends, he is found in a place of torment and hopes that his “brothers” learn a lesson that he missed while still on earth. I believe that lesson is for every Catholic Christian who encounters Jesus Christ at Mass across our diocese, our nation, and our world. God is our only source and all we have are his resources for us in order to witness to him, who IS our Source. If we have journeyed this far in our faith and missed that point, today is yet another opportunity to learn and reset our ways. Only then, can we confidently say in the words of our responsorial psalm; “Praise the Lord, my soul!”
Father Ibok is presently serving as a military chaplain for the US Army Reserves in Alaska.