September 24, 2019
Today is also the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, who are dear to and close to Pope Francis’ heart. Today there is also a collection for the needs of the Church in Canada (please be generous here). And, lastly, the commentary today will be a bit longer than usual because of the importance and difficulty of the central content, i.e., Christianity/Catholicism and wealth/riches. The Entrance Antiphon, which is biblical, sets the context of our reflection today with hard words on not hearing what God tells us to do; these words are based on parts of the segment of Daniel 3. And the collect or opening prayer promises those who are well off (“the rich”), i.e., us to share our wealth with the poor so that we can receive the treasures of Heaven.
The First Reading comes from the hard-hitting Prophet, Amos. It addresses a very common problem of ours, i.e., the false security of pleasures. “For many years God (has) been (Israel’s) protector and taken care of their needs, but now they receive their sustenance by crushing the poor. That is why God [here] speaks another language. He/She cannot tolerate the fact that His/Her people have become selfish upstarts, and the situation will soon be reversed, for God will not support a regime established on the backs of others.” (Saint Joseph Liturgical Bible) Amos clearly tells us what the pitfalls are if we are well off and self-centred; this is an excellent conscience examen for those of us in the First World with al its possessions, treasures, money, and riches.
The Second Reading makes no explicit mention of today’s theme of the poor but liturgically we can presume this in the language/terms of this reading from 1 Timothy, especially near the beginning. The reading clearly talks about our Faith being a struggle if we truly live it in our lives; this has to include Social Justice and how we help our poor Brothers and Sisters. The (biblical) Gospel Acclamation gives us the basic holy approach we need to live out this part of our Faith.
The Gospel is always powerful but today It is more so! Luke as a Gospel stresses the fundamental spiritual attitudes of those who follow Jesus and this clearly comes out in today’s Gospel. “There must be contempt of this world and unconditional attachment to the things that can be called truly good” (ibid.) Money, especially lots of it, makes us blind to the sufferings of others and their rejection by our affluent society. Today’s Gospel uses a story of Jesus that includes Lazarus, Abraham, and a rich man, a rich proud insensitive man whose spirituality is blind to the poor who are Christ’s favourite people. “For all the good he might have done, the rich man’s love of money made him morally unresponsive” (Robert O’Dacre’s introductory comment for this Sunday in the September 2019 Living With Christ missalette). Abraham’s words in today’s Gospel are a good warning we all need to hear!
Catch what Jesus is doing here! “Jesus constantly announces to the poor that they will become rich, and to the rich that they will be punished. He thus makes use of the image of the revolutionary reversal of situations found in prophetic literature [like that of Amos, which we saw above]. Since Christ is Lord, He has the right to threaten in the strongest possible terms those members of society who ignore their neighbour in need.” (Saint Joseph Liturgical Bible) In the story Jesus uses in today’s Gospel, He makes very clear to us what His call to and for us is!
The Responsorial Psalm is our response to the Word of God and is very powerful and rich. Remember that “Alleluia” is “Praise Yahweh” (Praise God!). The big question at today’s Mass for us is how do we praise God in terms of what we possess and how we respond to the poor including migrants and refugees. The very first part of today’s response tells us the poor are part of God’s favourite peoples. Woe, then, if our hierarchy of values does not take cognizance of them (see the second line of the last segment of our response)!
Note in our worship today we declare we are going to do this: see the words “this our offering” in “The Prayer Over the Offerings” which makes it explicit that we are going to help the poor! Also today both of the Communion Antiphons (one based on Psalm 118 and the other based on 1 John 3) tell us what true real riches are.
So, when we leave Mass today, let us keep the many promises we have made to God in today’s liturgy! If we take the challenge of today’s Gospel Acclamation seriously, then we do become righteous. May it be so! See also in the missalette the second intention in The Prayer of the Faithful; May it also be so for us! Remember in the Gospel parable of Jesus where the rich man asks Abraham to send Lazarus to his father (and family)? Answer this yourself by saying “Lord, I am Lazarus!”