To listen to today’s homily, please select the audio file below:
The last two Sunday’s our first reading has been from the Prophet Amos. Today’s reading from Amos is linked to the story that Jesus tells in Luke’s gospel. He speaks of a rich man living very comfortably, living luxuriously, who can’t see the poor beggar, Lazarus, outside his door. God judges him severely.
Having these two readings together, we can understand why some people in Jesus’ time thought he was a prophet. Jesus’ message about the poor was like that of the prophets. We can see also how important social justice is in the gospel. We can’t have religion without justice. Religion without justice is an affront to God who wishes all his children be justly cared for and loved.
Let’s take a look, first, at Amos, the prophet. Amos was ordinary sheepbreeder, he bred sheep in northern Israel about 700 years before Christ. In his time Israel was very prosperous and so were the countries around her, Syria, Phoenicia, Egypt, but their prosperity came at a price. They had everything they wanted–at least, the elite of those societies had everything they wanted. More often than not, though, their prosperity came at the expense of the poor.
In our readings these last two Sunday’s you hear Amos’ severe indictment, not only of the people of Israel, but of her neighbors as well. They’re trampling on the needy. He fiercely attacks those who are well off and don’t see the poor of the land.
“…lying upon beds of ivory, stretched comfortably on their couches,” eating the best food, drinking the best wines, not caring at all about those who are falling apart around them.
Amos was an ordinary sheep herder, but he knew what was going on, and he wasn’t afraid to say what he saw. He calls out everyone, kings, rulers, political people, priests, religious leaders, business people, anyone who’s cashing in on the needy and the poor of the land.
The Lord won’t forget what you have done, he tells them.
God won’t forget what you have done. Notice, the prophet doesn’t appeal to economics and say it’s not good economics to neglect the poor and have a society of “have’s and have nots.” No. The prophet doesn’t appeal to politics and say a fractured society isn’t good for a community; it’s going to lead to violence, riots, internal instability. No. The prophet doesn’t appeal to human good feeling and say that being good to the poor will help you feel better about yourself. No.
A prophet like Amos sees the world through God’s eyes and God’s values. That’s who the prophet is: one who sees the world through God’s eyes and God’s values. “Your kingdom come. Your will be done.” The goods of this world are not just for some people, for the few. This world is God’s world, and it’s meant for the good of all. That’s what the prophets say. That’s what the saints say, saints like Mother Theresa say the same thing. They see the world through God’s eyes and God’s values. That’s what social justice means, it’s justice for all.
That’s what Jesus says in his parable today. Notice, Jesus doesn’t say much about the rich man who’s dressed well and eats well. He doesn’t tell anything about the house he lived in, or his status in society or the way he got his money, or his wealthy friends, or where he spends his vacations. No. In fact, he doesn’t even tell us his name.
The only name Jesus offers in the parable is the poor man’s name, Lazarus, who has the same name as the man Jesus raised from the dead. How different too that is from our society, which knows the names of all the rich and famous and forgets the names of the poor.
We need to listen to prophets and saints. We need to listen to the teaching of Jesus in the gospel. We need to see things right. We need to see this world as God sees it.
And we need to act justly in our world, justly to all.