1st Reading – Amos 6:1a, 4-7
Again this week we hear from the first of the written prophets – his work having been recorded in the early to mid eighth century B.C. By trade, Amos was a herdsman and dresser of figs (whose job it was to puncture the immature fruit to make it turn sweet). In other words, he was an itinerant farm worker who spent some time away from his native Tekoa (which is too high in altitude to support the growth of figs). Amos’ career took place during a period of great material prosperity for Israel, but also a period of social and religious corruption. Politically, it was the calm between storms – the eye of the hurricane so to speak – during the second half of the 9th century B.C. Israel had felt the military might of Assyria; after this, the Assyrian power in the area weakened. But in 721 B.C., Samaria [the capital of the northern kingdom (Israel)] fell to the Assyrians.
Although Amos never refers directly to the Sinai covenant, this concept lies at the heart of his message of judgment. Yahweh had acknowledged Israel as his covenant people, but they had abused this privilege. Therefore, Israel would experience the curses associated with disobedience of the covenant. Amos’ harsh words were directed in a particular way against the leadership – king, priests, and upper classes – but the coming judgment would affect the entire people because Israelite thought is that the nation is a unity with a common destiny.
2nd Reading – 1 Timothy 6:11-16
Today we wind up our study of 1st Timothy with Saint Paul’s instructions to Timothy on how he is to act. As a leader in the true church, Timothy will act very differently from the false teacher.
Gospel – Luke 16:19-31
Having worked our way the past two weeks through several parables of Jesus, we now arrive at the story of the rich man and Lazarus. There is disagreement among the commentators whether or not this story is a parable. In all other parables, the players are anonymous; here one is named Lazarus. Whether or not it is a parable is unimportant for our study. The story addresses two errors: 1) That of those who denied the survival of the soul after death and therefore, retribution in the next life; and 2) That of those who interpreted material prosperity in this life as a reward for moral uprightness, and adversity as punishment. This story shows that, immediately after death, the soul is judged by God for all its acts – the particular judgment – and is rewarded or punished. This story also teaches the innate dignity of every human person – independently of social, financial, cultural or religious position. Respect for this dignity implies that we must help those who are experiencing any material or spiritual need.