Sept. 25, Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle C. Readings:
1) Amos 6:1a, 4-7
2) 1 Timothy 6:11-16
Gospel: Luke 16:19-31
By Deacon Mike Ellerbrock
Catholic News Service
I love it when youth say what’s on their mind.
For instance, they’ll ask, “What’s so special about poor people?” or, “If there is fire in hell, do you burn up and disappear?”
Likewise, adults often express confusion about Catholic social teaching’s “preferential option for the poor.” They ask whether the church is saying that God loves the poor more than fortunate people and, if not, then what’s the point?
The church has profound answers to these great questions that are addressed in this week’s Scriptures.
Picture life in the garden before Adam and Eve brought sin into the world: There was no poverty, no alienation and no competition among the species. Everyone lived in harmony; no one was without.
But sin corrupted life in Eden with consequences to this day. Division and conflict arose over the distribution of resources.
However, the Second Vatican Council, St. John Paul II and Pope Francis have taught that God provided the earth’s resources for all, so all property (private and public) has a “social mortgage” obligating its use to serve the common good.
Thus, poverty is the principal manifestation of sin. Whenever and wherever we see poverty, we see the effects of sin.
God loves everyone equally. What he despises is poverty.
The Gospel shows starving Lazarus painfully begging for crumbs from the rich man’s sumptuous table without receiving a scrap.
When they both died, Lazarus was carried to heaven by angels while the rich man in purple garments fell into the netherworld. Tormented in flames, the rich man looks up and now begs for a cool drop of water from Lazarus’ fingertip.
However, the chasm between them is so wide that no one can cross it. This isn’t a physical description of hell such as Dante’s burning inferno.
St. John Paul II said that we should not think of hell as a place, but as separation from God — an immense chasm of lost love whereby one truly knows, sees and feels the pain of having chosen to reject one’s Creator, Lord and Redeemer. To be on the outside of heaven looking in, that is hell.
In serving the common good, how can we do our part to proclaim and address the plight of the poor?