FIRST READING (Their wanton revelry shall be done away with.)
A reading from the Book of the Prophet Amos (6:1a, 4-7)
Thus says the Lord, the God of hosts: Woe to the complacent in Zion! Lying upon beds of ivory, stretched comfortably on their couches, they eat lambs taken from the flock, and calves from the stall! Improvising to the music of the harp, like David, they devise their own accompaniment. They drink wine from bowls and anoint themselves with the best oils; yet they are not made ill by the collapse of Joseph! Therefore, now they shall be the first to go into exile, and their wanton revelry shall be done away with. — The Word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.
RESPONSORIAL PSALM (146:7, 8-9, 9-10)
R. Praise the Lord, my soul! (Ps 146:1b)
Blessed is he who keeps faith forever, secures justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets captives free. (R)
The Lord gives sight to the blind. The Lord raises up those who were bowed down; the Lord loves the just. The Lord protects strangers. (R)
The fatherless and the widow he sustains, but the way of the wicked he thwarts. The Lord shall reign forever; your God, O Zion, through all generations. Alleluia. (R)
SECOND READING (Keep the commandment until the appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ.)
A reading from the first Letter of Saint Paul to Timothy (6:11-16)
But you, man of God, pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. Compete well for the faith. Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called when you made the noble confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you before God, who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus, who gave testimony under Pontius Pilate for the noble confession, to keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ that the blessed and only ruler will make manifest at the proper time, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, and whom no human being has seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal power. Amen. —The Word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.
GOSPEL ACCLAMATION (Cf. 2 Cor 8:9)
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Though our Lord Jesus Christ was rich, he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. (R)
GOSPEL (You received what was good, Lazarus what was bad; now he is comforted, whereas you are tormented.)
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke (16:19-31)
Jesus said to the Pharisees: “There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was 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. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores. When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.’ Abraham replied, ‘My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented. Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours.’ He said, ‘Then I beg you, father, send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment.’ But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.’ He said, ‘Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ Then Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.’”—The Gospel of the Lord.
R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
“My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime.”
Our Gospel today tells the story of the parable of the Rich Man and the beggar Lazarus. This parable was given by Jesus to the Pharisees as a lesson to them – and to us generations later – to take care of those in need. Too often, we soothe our conscience when faced with so many dilemmas of people in need with the phrase, “It’s none of my business!”
We may think that the expression, “It’s none of my business!” can be a way of recognizing that we should respect the rights of others to self-determination and a sense of personal privacy. And so we may say this when we see someone doing something that is in opposition to our own values and world-view, but we also acknowledge their freedom as individuals to make their own decisions.
“It’s none of my business!” can be used as an excuse for not stepping in to help when it is clear that another needs help – our help.
This phrase, “It’s none of my business!” has almost become a motto for modern 21st century society in which individuals are so totally absorbed in their own life and their own projects or dreams that they fail to see or even consider the common good. It is best seen in how we are glued day and night to our mobile phone screens and fail to see or acknowledge those around us.
Last Sunday’s readings introduced us to the theme of covenant responsibility – the responsibility with Biblical foundations and taught as a principle of discipleship of Christ, that there exists a covenant responsibility for the rich or wealthy to care for the poor. This same theme of covenant responsibility is repeated in today’s readings, and interestingly, our first reading again comes from the Book of the prophet Amos.
Amos does not condemn people for their wealth but for their complacency – their complacency when surrounded by others less fortunate facing hardships. This is the meaning of the warning, “Woe to the complacent!” The background here was the complacency of the rich and wealthy of Judah while just to the north, the Kingdom of Israel was suffering invasions and collapse. The people of Judah are completely unaware of or indifferent to the plight of the Israelites to the north who are their partners in the covenant they all made with God.
And this is the key or central meaning of today’s Gospel of the Rich Man (in the Vulgate translation of the Bible he is called dives which really means… rich man) and Lazarus. The rich man is not condemned for his wealth and luxury. Rather his is condemned for his complacency in ignoring the plight of Lazarus at the gate, Lazarus, poor, wrapped in filthy rags and covered with sores, hoping to receive scraps from the table of the rich man. The story is a graphic example of the rich man’s complete disregard for the plight of someone in desperate need.
The way this parable is presented is a common teaching device for Jesus. The one who once was privileged now finds himself in torment, while the one who was once destitute, is now safe in the embrace of Abraham,
If the rich man is not condemned for his wealth, why does he end in torment? Note that in the scene after their deaths, the rich man not only recognizes Lazarus in heaven with their father, Abraham, but he calls him “by name!” He knew who Lazarus was. The position of Abraham in the story shows that the rich man and Lazarus shared the same religious heritage. He asks Abraham to send Lazarus back to warn his brothers – obviously as complacent as he. But note the reply of Abraham – “They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them!” This is a reminder of the covenant responsibility they all share as sons of God. To escape the same fate as their rich brother, his siblings have only to be more obedient to the law, to the covenant, by showing care and concern for those less fortunate.
While we often preach about sins of commission – the sins I willfully commit – here we are reminded of the sins we most often fail to acknowledge or confess, the sins of omission, the sins caused when we neglect to do good, to assist or help those in need. It is always difficult for us to strike a balance between respecting the self-determination and privacy of others on one side and stepping in to help those in need – even when we are not asked. The Gospel challenges us to answer the question, “When should we make someone else’s problems our business?” Think of walking in a parking lot on a very hot day, and noticing a child seated in the car with the windows closed, and the child crying and obviously overheated. That is a no-brainer! We should step in and seek to help. And shame on the upset and embarrassed parent who, rather than thank others for “interfering” pulls out her mobile phone and starts recording her melt-down in anger for “interfering.” Where is the sense of responsibility? Where is our shared sense of covenant for all human beings?
Parents know it is their responsibility to “make it their business” to know what their children do. This is built on a covenant of love in the family. But do we make it our business to know the hardships and troubles of others around us? Our neighbors? Our household helpers? Those who we work with? The person sitting next to you today in this church? We share a covenant responsibility with each of them, because our covenant responsibilities extend beyond our home, our families and even our parish community here. We cannot be deaf to the cries of the poor and needy in the often far-flung corners of the world. We cannot close our eyes to the plight of the victims of wars and oppression, and those forced into exile. We cannot be complacent while the lives of others are collapsing around them. We can learn from the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. We still have time to begin to be faithful to our covenant responsibilities and to what our faith and tradition teaches us: The well-being of others is indeed our business!
Celebrant: The sin of the rich man was that he neither knew nor cared about the poor man at his gate. May our intercessions in this holy liturgy express our concern for others.
READER: That God’s will guide the Church into new apostolates for the poor an abandoned, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: That those who direct the world’s finances will commit themselves and their companies to development and justice for the good of all, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For Catholic education in our schools in Hong Kong, that we can continue to support the teachers, students and staff through our prayers and generosity, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: That all Christians working in and through the mass media will speak up for the truth, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For all those who are poor and sick like Lazarus, that they receive the comfort of our compassionate love and prayers, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: [SMC only For the intentions of the Ching family, for whom today’s Mass is offered, and [For those who are in need of our prayers, as well as for our faithful departed ones, who served the Lord honestly while on earth, that our prayers and petitions may intercede for them, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
CELEBRANT: Almighty God, the blessed and only ruler of all, you are King of kings and Lord of lords, yet you cherish the poor and weak. Grant the prayers we make, through Christ our Lord. (all) AMEN.