Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Poverty and Wealth may be part of this Life
Exchange It for Fortune or Misfortune in the Next Life

First Reading (Amos 6: 1, 4-7): The revelry of pleasure-seekers will be eliminated
Second Reading (1 Tim 6: 11-16): Pursue a life of righteousness and godliness
Gospel: (Lk 16:19-31): Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus
Chinese Classics:
-“To be beyond the power of riches and honors to make one dissipated, to be above poverty and mean conditions that make one swerve from principles (1)
-“The difference between man and beast”(2)
-“Why not have pork congee?”(3)
-“Lying in the magistrate's study listening to the sound of the bamboos, I thought it was the sound of the people's suffering. I have been governor of the Cho District for some time and I feel and care for every single branch and leaf.”(4)

There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man name Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man's table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side... Abraham said, 'Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony.” (Lk 16: 29-25 summarized)

Among the four Gospels Luke in particular stresses Jesus' concern for the poor. Jesus as portrayed by Luke clearly declares that his mission on earth is to “bring good news to the poor. (Lk 4:18). We usually call the 'Beatitudes' the 'Eight Beatitudes,' but actually in Luke's Gospel there are only four Beatitudes, matched by four 'Woes.' Luke wants us to understand the actual content of the 'Beatitudes,' so he pairs the first 'Beatitude' with the first 'Woe.' “Blessed are you who are poor...woe to you who are rich.” (Lk 6: 20, 24). The comparison makes it clear and strong, There is no inconsistency or lack of clarity.

The contrast and comparison between 'blessing' and 'woe' is illustrated clearly in the parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus'.

Theoretically, to be rich is not sinful nor is being poor necessarily a virtue or a blessing. If people follow Confucius' teaching both the rich and the poor can live out human dignity and humane characteristics. Confucius said, “ Be beyond the power of riches and honours that make one dissipated, to be above poverty and mean conditions that swerve one from principles.”(1) On the other hand if rich people abuse their wealth and live in luxury and licentiousness, and those who are poor betray their dignity as human beings, even to betraying their country, friends and relatives, then it becomes like Mencius said, “( no) difference between man and beast.” (2) Human beings then tend to descend to the level of beasts.

In actual situations it is very easy for the wealth of rich people to create many problems for themselves. Without realizing it they begin to focus only on their own welfare and enjoyment, to the exclusion of any concern for the poor or for the misfortunes of society.

Compared with Lazarus the rich man was this kind of person. He was surrounded by wealth, dressed well and feasted sumptuously every day. He lived a life of luxury. He paid no attention to Lazarus, the poor man who lay at his doorstep. He did not even know there was a poor person like that. It was what we call a 'sin of omission.'

We can sin because we do something wrong in thought, word or action. Or we can sin because we do NOT do something, or we omit doing something we should do. Parents neglect to teach their children and the children do something wrong; a doctor neglects to update himself and his negligence causes someone's death; a priest neglects to prepare his sermons and is the cause of many Catholics losing interest in the church. These are sins of 'omission.' It is not something we do wrong, rather it is something we do NOT do.

An anonymous poet once said, “There are many people throughout the world who die of misfortunate but I do not know them; but is it because I do not know them that they die amid misfortunate?” It is true. If I knew, or more people knew, if I worked a little harder to save others, if my love was greater and I spread warmth among more people, would so many people in the world die amid misfortune?

The Emperor Zhun Wei was a somewhat befuddled monarch. It was not because he “fattened himself by exploiting the people,” or that he did anything really wrong. It was because he did not look after the people's livelihood, he knew nothing about their ordinary lives. When his officials told him the country was suffering from a famine and the people did not have enough rice, he asked, “Why not have pork congee? (3) This became a famous joke.

Jesus understood the relationship between “concern for the poor” and “becoming poor.” That is why he not only cared about those who were poor, he also became poor. He could say about himself, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Lk 9:58) He was master of the universe, the whole world belonged to him, yet he had nothing. He had no place to live, not even a small space.

Those who become poor more easily understand poor people, their circumstances, their mentality and their attitudes.

In the world today there is a great gap between rich and poor, not only among people, but among countries and continents and between north and southern hemispheres. The gaps are extreme. Today the wealth of the three richest people in the world equals that of the forty-seven poorest countries. This is almost unbelievable! If the Church wants to 'preach the Good News to the poor' effectively, must it not also become a 'Church of the poor' or a 'Church for the poor,' before it can obtain results in its fight for the poor?

There is a poem by Zhen Ban Qiao which says, “Lying in the magistrate's study listening to the sound of the bamboos, I thought it was the sound of the people's suffering. I have been the governor of the Cho District for some time, I feel and care for every single branch and leaf.”(4) This kind of care for the peoples' suffering, this kind of sensitivity which can be aroused by a 'single branch and leaf' should be the responsibility of every rich person. Should it not also be the special characteristic of the churches who profess to be Christian?