26th Sunday Year C
Theme of the week: Beware of over-indulgence in material comfort. Instead, seek good virtues and follow in Christ’s footsteps.
The Gospel passage this week tells the parable of Dives and Lazarus. Dives (which means “rich man”) indulges in his riches, oblivious to the suffering Lazarus outside his gate. After they both died, Dives ended up in hell; while Lazarus was gloried in heaven. In his torment, Dives pleaded with Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his five brothers, saying, “if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” (verse 30)
Last week, we reflected that for most of us who have jobs, own our cars, and live in our own home, we are blessed with great monetary wealth. Like Dives, have I committed the sin of over-indulgence and not showing compassion to my fellow men? In this week’s First Reading, the prophet Amos denounced the decadent behaviour of the rich, who indulged themselves in food, music and “beds of ivory” (verse 4); and in spite of their great wealth, they ignored the plight of the poor – “the ruin of Joseph” (verse 6). As we have reflected previously, wealth is a gift from God, and like any of God’s gifts, we have a duty to use our wealth to serve God. Hence, while being wealthy by itself is not a sin, one can easily fall into sin by over-indulging in one’s wealth at the expense of our service to God. Amos went on to prophesise that those heartless rich would be the first to suffer the pain of exile. True to the prophesy, within a generation, the Northern Kingdom of Israel (to whom Amos preached) fell to the Assyrians. The Southern Kingdom of Judah fell soon after, and the Jewish race would once again live in exile.
Let us pause to reflect. When God blesses me with wealth and material comfort, like Dives and the people of Israel in the First Reading, have I too committed the sin of over-indulgence? Have I placed my material well-being above my spiritual well-being? Have I let my secular quest for fame and fortune overshadow my spiritual quest? If so, like the people of Israel, I am in exile – not a physical one but a spiritual exile from God. In the verse that immediately precede this week’s Second Reading, Paul teaches that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains” (1 Tim 6:10). Indeed, riches do not buy us happiness; fame does not buy us contentment. Quite the contrary, our relent quest for fame and fortune can bring us much misery. That is why many rich and famous people live unhappy lives. In the Second Reading, Paul presents this challenge to all Christians, that rather than pursuing money, we should “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, [and] gentleness” (verse 11). Paul asks us to emulate Jesus and “fight the good fight”. Think about it, in His pursuit of righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness, Jesus was prepared to submit himself to suffering and ultimately, death.
Beyond simply saying no to the temptation of indulgence, how far am I prepared to go for the sake of my faith? Indeed, we are called to carry our cross and follow Christ. As Christians, God calls us to evangelise the Good News to the Dives of this world, by our deeds and our words. Have I heeded God’s call?