26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Amos 6:1a, 4-7; 1 Tm 6:11-16; Lk 16:19-31
Our first and third readings this morning have the same message: Don’t live luxuriously while being insensitive to the needs of others. Our first reading is from the prophet Amos. His words are directed to those living in the southern kingdom of Israel – the area we call Judea. He addresses them as “the complacent in Zion.” (Zion is another name for Jerusalem). Perhaps this warning came after the Assyrians destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 BC. The northern kingdom is called Joseph in today’s reading, because it was there that their ancestors, descendants of the patriarch Joseph, settled in that area 500 years earlier. The complacent in Jerusalem were living pampered, comfortable lives, paying no attention to the devastation of the north and not concerned that their own country was headed toward the same fate because of their social and moral depravity.
Our gospel parable is very gripping. It gives details that embed themselves in our memories: dogs licking sores, inaccessible scraps, reversal of fortunes, a finger dipped in water to cool a tongue, pleading for five brothers. The rich man lived an excessively luxurious life and paid no attention to the plight of poor Lazarus. God is not asking us to give all of our wealth to the poor. As Fr. Eugene pointed out last week, then we would all be homeless. We need to strike a balance so that we live simply and have money left over to share with the less fortunate.
I have a friend with an older car that is starting to show some rust. She’s been eyeing new Subarus. But she told me the other day, “You know, I would rather keep my car going a couple more years and have more money to send to South America.” She is a sponsor for destitute kids down there, of which there are many.
We are very fortunate to be living in such favorable circumstances. We tend to take it for granted, but there are many, many people in the world who are living in really rough conditions through no fault of their own – they simply do not have the opportunities that we’ve been blessed with. But with our blessings comes the responsibility to do what we can to alleviate some of the sufferings of our brothers and sisters.
In our first reading, the prophet Amos, after describing the money squandered on lavish living, says, “yet they are not made ill by the collapse of Joseph!” Something is wrong if we do not feel sick to our stomach when we hear of the atrocities that ISIS is committing against our fellow Christians in Syria and Iraq. Young girls are being captured and sold as sex slaves. People are beheaded and others burned alive. We can send money to organizations like Aid to the Church in Need who are set up to help them, but mainly we can pray for them, that they will not lose heart under such unbelievable conditions.
I recently read an article online from the Catholic Herald. It was entitled “China’s evil secret”. It described the practice of forced organ harvesting of political prisoners in China. China is a totalitarian state. People who don’t agree with the government or are otherwise viewed as a threat are thrown in jail. Rather than pay large sums of money to keep them in prison, they cut them open and use their organs for transplants. As one doctor who admitted to forcibly removing organs from a prisoner remarked, “In China, the government does not treat people as human beings.”
The article described the gory details of an incident involving a woman who belonged to the banned Falun Gong movement as recalled by an unnamed policeman in Shenyang, China. “The scalpel cut into the chest and blood gushed out. At that time, we had been interrogating and severely torturing her for about a week. She already had countless wounds on her body. We used electrical batons to torture her. No anesthetics were used. They cut her chest with a knife without trembling hands. It was extremely horrible. I can imitate her scream for you. It sounded like something was being ripped apart.”
A new film, entitled “The Bleeding Edge”, exposes the gruesome practice of forced organ harvesting in China. The movie features the Chinese-born Canadian actress and Miss World contestant Anastasia Lin, who is leading a global campaign against the practice. It was recently shown to members of Britain’s Parliament.
The article goes on to point out that, “Today in China thousands of prisoners of conscience – potentially including unregistered ‘house church’ Christians – are strapped to operating tables and cut apart by force. Their vital organs are then extracted and sold for use as transplants. In China, surgeon’s scalpels have become weapons of murder and those who wield them have become accomplices to a barbaric trade.”
The US Congress and the European Parliament have passed resolutions condemning forced organ harvesting in China. Pope Francis has described the organ trade as “immoral and a crime against humanity”. Britain will be trying to ban citizens from traveling to China for organ transplants. We, on our part, should certainly pray for our fellow human beings and fellow Christians who are undergoing this ordeal.
The rich man in today’s parable was not condemned for being rich. He suffered torment after death because of his selfish, extravagant living, while at the same time being calloused and hard-hearted toward the sufferings of others. May we not be insensitive to the hardships of our fellow-travelers and do all that we can to relieve them with our prayers, our kindness, and our financial resources.