Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, all of us are all called to live a holy and virtuous life that is centred not on worldly possessions and the many temptations present in this world, but rather on God alone. We have to remember this at all times, lest those same temptations pull us into the wrong path, as the evil one is always ever ready and ever busy to strike at us with all of his capabilities.
In our first reading today, we heard the words of the prophet Amos being directed at the Israelites conveying the anger of God at those people because of their refusal to believe in Him and His prophet, their refusal to listen to those whom God had sent into their midst to remind them to follow His path. They have hardened their hearts and closed their minds to God, and they preferred to live in sin and worshipped pagan idols and gods instead of the One and only True God they should have been worshipping.
The prophet Amos worked and ministered to the people during the last years of the northern kingdom of Israel, which was referred to in the first reading passage today as ‘Samaria’, which was the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel. It was a foreboding and warning to those people that should they continue to live in sin and refused to change their ways, they would see the end of their kingdom and had to endure exile, as how it actually happened in the end.
And this is related to what we have heard in our Gospel passage today, in which the Lord Jesus used the parable of Lazarus and the rich man to highlight how important it is for us to live a truly God-centric life and resist the many temptations found in this world. In that well-known parable we heard how the Lord Jesus told His disciples the story of a rich man and a poor man named Lazarus, who was always by the gate of the house of the rich man, hungry and suffering while the rich man feasted and dressed well every single day.
Through this parable, the Lord wanted us all to know that it is not that He is against us having wealth or that being wealthy is something that is sinful and wrong, but rather, it is our unhealthy and dangerous attachment to those worldly possessions, be it wealth in any forms, in money and other goods of pleasures, even in matter of dress and food that we must be wary of. Those goods on their own are not evil or bad by nature.
In fact, having greater wealth and possessions is actually a blessing from God, that God has given us more and provided us with greater blessings in our own unique way. However, we must also remember what the Lord Himself also said in another different occasion, that ‘To those who have been given a lot, a lot is also then expected from them’. This means that the more blessings we have received from God, the more that we are actually challenged to make good use of them.
The very fact that Lazarus, the poor man stayed at the gate of the rich man’s house day after day, again and again showed just how oblivious the rich man and his household had been to the plight of Lazarus. The rich man and his household partied and celebrated without end, with all the goodness the world could have offered, enjoying to the fullest all of earth’s wonderful pleasures, satisfying themselves in great excess.
That poor man did not ask for much, just for food to alleviate his hunger and basic human needs and dignity. Yet, no one would give him what he deserved, and left him all alone to suffer until the day he died and went into heaven in the presence of God and Abraham, his forefather. Then as mentioned, the rich man also died, and he went into the eternal suffering in hell, suffering as the Lord said because during life, he had done what is wicked and enjoyed life as it was, while Lazarus suffered so greatly.
Being rich is truly not something that is inherently evil or bad. God does not despise the rich and the powerful as I have just mentioned. But when we misuse what God has given to us and blessed us with for our own selfish purposes, just as the prophet Amos spoke against the Israelites for their wicked and unjust actions towards one another, then we have committed a great sin against God.
But this is something that each and every one of us must always be wary about, as the temptations are always there, pulling us into the path of disobedience and sin. By our exposure to sin, and by the frailty of our body, mind and flesh, we are naturally predisposed to various desires, be it for wealth, money, for worldly things and possessions, for glory and power, for other pleasures of this world, to satisfy our own selfish desires.
This is where we must always stand ready to resist those temptations, which Satan and all the evil forces ever present around us are always ready to push onto us, trying to lure us away from the path of righteousness. And this is where in our second reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. Paul to St. Timothy, the Apostle reminded us that each and every one of us must strive to be holy and godly, and strive to resist all the negative emotions and temptations that threaten to take us away from God.
And looking again at the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, let us remember and realise just how futile our pursuits for worldly things and glories have been. For all of his wealth and power, his popularity and all the fame he had, the rich man was left with nothing when he entered into death and thrown into hell. In the end, he was just left by himself, in despair and total hopelessness, and no matter what he is doing and how he want to get out, once he is in hell, there is absolutely no hope for him, for he has rejected God completely and refused His love totally.
Satan purposely wants us to indulge in all those wicked things, and to be tempted to sin so that we will in the end lose everything, and he will never cease to tempt us and to push us into sin, and we should resist his efforts and seek for help in this constant battle raging daily for our souls. And today, as it happens, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Archangels, St. Michael, St. Gabriel and St. Raphael.
Today, let us all ask for the help and protection from the three Holy Archangels, who is always ready to help us with the legions of Angels and our own Guardian Angels to protect us all from the attacks of the evil ones. But we also have to make the conscious effort to resist those temptations and realise that we have to hold onto the right things in life, that is not the false joys and happiness in worldly things, but rather to trust in God.
Let us all therefore make best use of whatever God has blessed us with, for the benefit of our fellow men and not be selfish like the rich man or the Israelites of the time of prophet Amos, who put themselves, their ego and pride ahead of their love for God and for their fellow men. Let us seek to be humble in all things and love God and place Him at the very centre of our lives and our existences. Let us not be ignorant of the needs and the plight of those who are less fortunate than us, but instead, let us be generous in sharing whatever happiness, joy and blessings we have received from God.
May the Holy Archangels, St. Michael, St. Gabriel and St. Raphael protect us all and may they intercede for us and be our guardians in this constant, daily spiritual warfare that we may emerge triumphant, keeping ourselves away from unworthy and wicked attachments to false pleasures, joys and temptations of this world so that in all things we may become ever closer to God and be worthy of His promised inheritance and glory. Amen.