Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
- Amos 6:1A, 4-7
- 1 Timothy 6:11-16
- Luke 16:19-31
Seeking comfort and pleasure in the world always waters and gives growth to that seed within us that produces the corrupt fruit of spiritual complacency and laziness, and in the third and final warning given to prophet Amos about Israel, God narrates how Israel has fallen away from who she was called to be. She has become far too comfortable in the things of the world; God finds, “Lying upon beds of ivory, stretched comfortably on their couches, they eat lambs taken from the flock, and calves from the stall!” She has become detached from the needs of the poor and only seeks to entertain herself; God finds, “Improvising to the music of the harp, like David, they devise their own accompaniment.” She has taken the things that God meant to bless His people and used them for selfish pleasures; God finds, “They drink wine from bowls and anoint themselves with the best oils.” They have become so indulged in themselves, that they have no concern for the fallen state of God’s people Israel; God finds, “Yet they are not made ill by the collapse of Joseph.” For seeking first the pleasures of this world, it is only right they that shall be the first to have them stripped away; God judges, “Therefore, now they shall be the first to go into exile, and their wanton revelry shall be done away with.”
In his second letter to Timothy, Saint Paul describes in his time, the same type of people who Amos found, saying, “There is great gains in godliness with contentment . . . Those who want to be rich are falling into temptation and into a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils, and some people in their desire for it have strayed from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains” (6:6, 9-10). But then the Apostle shows Timothy the way of Christ, which is strikingly different from the ways of the world, saying, “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 . . . keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ.” What Paul offers here is an image of the Holy Mass, where we come before the Presence of Christ Jesus, the Holy Eucharist, kneeling worthily to receive Him, without stain or reproach. For, we may have failed during the week to live as we have been called, but before we approach Him at the Mass, we have either received absolution for our grave sins through the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation or through general absolutions we receive during the liturgy and has given us the remedy for our venial sins.
The Gospel of Luke 16:19-31 now enters here to offer us another image of the two types of people we have encountered in the previous readings. First, there is the rich man who wants for nothing in this world; he dresses himself in the finest and most expensive garments, and he dines “sumptuously each day”. Then, just outside of the door of his home is “a poor man named Lazarus.” “Lazarus,” the text says, is “covered with sores,” that dogs used to come and lick. How miserable is condition of Lazarus that even dogs know to have pity on him. Lazarus is not only poor, he is hungry. Luke says, Lazarus “would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table.” Both of these men died as men do and after their deaths Lazarus “was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham,” while the rich man went off to Hades, where he was tormented.” While in torment the rich man still seems to think he has privilege, because he begins making a number of demands. He also seems to think Lazarus is indebted to service him, asking Abraham, “Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.” He then show his selfish concern for just his household in asking Abraham, not to send missionaries to the world to warn them about his fate, but just to his father’s house to warn his five brothers. He then shows that he still rejects the revelation of God from the prophets; telling Abraham that the law of Moses and the word from the prophets isn’t good enough for his brothers; no, they will only listen if a dead person rises and goes to speak with them in person. This condition, concerns, and interests of this man, tells so much about the state of souls in Hell.
While, the readings at the Holy Mass last Sunday for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time pointed to the things that the liturgy is teaching us to exalt in this life so that we might find true wealth, the readings for this Holy Mass are teaching us how to govern our lives so that we might live in truth wealth in this life and then in eternity.
Our Lord Jesus Christ gave light to His path in saying, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). The Apostle Paul then added more light to the Lord’s path in saying, “But you, man of God, pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. Compete well for the faith . . . keep the commandment without stain or reproach.”
Truly, the path to eternal life that the Apostle set forth here are the very things we see the liturgy forming our hearts to be. Pursue righteousness the Apostle says; to pursue something means that you are moving in the direction of that very thing. We do not pursue something by running in the opposite direction like Jonah did. On the contrary, everything in the liturgy is intended to show movement towards Christ; from the opening procession, to how our bodies are oriented, to the direction of our prayers, to the smoke of the incense, to the elevation of the scriptures, the elevation of the offering, to the elevation of the host, the procession towards communion, and at many other moments, the liturgy is teaching us through these movements to pursue God and His righteousness.
In giving us our bodily gestures, the liturgy is teaching us devotion. In giving us the Holy Eucharist, the liturgy is teaching us to have faith, which is the evidence of things not seen. In pointing us to the sacrifice of Christ Jesus on the Cross, the liturgy is teaching us what true love looks like, the cost of loving People in this world, and is guiding us to be that in the world.
In slowly guiding us through the four movements of the Mass and ever holding back the climax of the fulfillment of our joy, the liturgy is teaching us patience – saying, wait, pray and confess some more so that you might be ready. In this way, the liturgy is recapitulating the slow and guiding hand of God through salvation history. For, the Communion rite can no more come at the beginning of the Mass, than the salvation of Christ on the Cross could have come right after Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden. Moreover, no one shall approach the Holy Eucharist and receive Him worthily with the stain of sin on their heart.
In placing the Holy Eucharist in our mouth (the ordinary method) or even in our hands (the permitted method), the liturgy is teaching us gentleness; for, no one goes up and just grabs the host or snatches it off of the paten as if this is trick-or-treat. On the contrary, in teaching us how to be reverent to Christ, the liturgy is also teaching us how to be protectively gentle with Him as well. In this way, we live our lives in a manner that the Apostle calls a race, where we compete well for the faith. Not in a competition against other believers, but against the corruption of sin and temptation, which is always hounding us to submit to their wages of death and ruin.
This is just one way how the readings at Mass this Sunday connect to the liturgy and how the liturgy is forming us how to live our lives in the world. Be in the world what you have received through the liturgy.