Referencing all readings this weekend.
Amos tells us how dangerous complacency is in our first reading. Those that live with wealth unfortunately have a tendency – a tendency – to not care about what REALLY matters. Lambs and calves are their food, indicating they are not forward looking, but instead are only looking at the day – eating baby animals instead of letting them grow. Amos warns them that this will come to an end. That God will not let it go on forever.
In the gospel, on the other hand, the rich man lived and finished his life without a care for the poor. He, apparently, made it through his entire life without being challenged by the poor. But after this life, God did not allow him to continue with those kinds of blessings and material goods.
Make no mistake, he was in hell, or in the hell side of Sheol. But he could see across the abyss to the “place of the dead” – in Hebrew it was called Sheol, and in Greek it was called Hades – where Abraham and Lazarus were. They were in Sheol because Jesus had not yet died and rose himself. But Sheol was emptied at Jesus’ resurrection.
In hell, it will be even worse than what the rich man experienced in the Gospel story. He looked and saw Abraham and Lazarus in Sheol. In hell, no one will want to even glance at heaven, but will run in terror from the love of God.
No doubt, this is hard to deal with. It is so much easier to count our blessings and to move in circles of people that are comfortable in their approach to God. But this is not the challenge that our readings give us today. Paul starts off this section of his letter to Timothy with a stern order. “But you, man of God, avoid all this.” And then he lists what Timothy needs to do to respond to his Christian life.
What are we called to do? We are not expected to impoverish ourselves, but we are expected to reach out to those who are less fortunate than ourselves. What have you done in that regard in recent days, months, years? I have, unfortunately, heard people say “I did all that work already! I supported the parish; I worked on this project or that project. I have done enough! Let somebody else take over.
That is the wrong attitude! If you are alive, you have work to do for the sake of the Kingdom of God. The question we should be asking every day is really very simple: “what do you need me to do today, Lord?”
Will we serve the King of Kings and Lord of lords who dwells in unapproachable light? Will we allow ourselves to be used in the service of the Kingdom? It is obvious from the gospel that failing to do that will land us in hell!
This is not an optional “if I feel like it” something that we can do whenever we have some spare time or spare money. This is part of the reason why the Archbishop, for the last twenty years, has had an Annual Appeal for the good of the Archdiocese. It is not simply about asking for money. It is about preparing yourself for what God has in store for you for the rest of eternity.
I do not want to make this homily about the Annual Appeal, but it is a part of what we are doing in the Archdiocese. The main point I want to make is that it is very easy to believe that because we have material blessings we are especially blessed by God. If we fail to acknowledge these blessings before God, and that means using the blessings for the greatest good, we may find ourselves on the wrong side of eternity.
I think, in some ways it can be well summarized in the one verse from second Corinthians that was the Gospel acclamation: “for you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that for your sake he became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich.”
Try to name just one thing that you have that is not a gift from God! It is simply not possible.
Heavenly Father, through the gift of your Son, Jesus Christ, you have given us life. Help us to live it to the full. Not in selfishness, but in an openness to your marvelous gifts. We see clearly through your generosity to us that we cannot be more generous than you. But help us to contribute to the greatness of your gifts to the world by sharing who and what we are as your children.
We are your children, princes and princesses of the King of Kings. Help us to act in that holiness and grace. Help us to keep the commandments without stain or reproach until the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ. To him be honor and eternal power. Amen.