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Sunday Scripture: The Lord is our hope

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

By Sister Betty J. Lillie, S.C.

Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Amos 6:1a, 4-7; Psalm 146:7-10; 1 Timothy 6:11-16; Luke 16: 9-31

As the summer wanes and we all would like to sit back and rest, we are challenged by readings that deal with some heavy teachings in which Jesus had instructed His disciples. Just before the beginning of our Gospel text we have a theology of history advanced by some Christians who acted in a pharisaic mentality.

They believed that a convenient way to get around the law and the prophets was to hold that when John the Baptist came, the former teachings ended and their content was no longer valid. What took their place was the good news of the kingdom of God (Luke 16:16).

However, Jesus did not come to abrogate God’s law. He tells them that it would be easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one letter of the law to become void (Luke 16:17). Their legalistic maneuver was an abomination in God’s sight.

Luke then follows up with another story about the contrast between the life of a rich man and the suffering and need of a poor man. It is not known whether the event actually happened or whether it was simply a story to illustrate a moral deficiency in the social structure. The unnamed rich man was called Dives, which is Latin for rich man, and Lazarus is not to be confused with the brother of Mary and Martha of Bethany.

The core of the story is that Dives did not repent in his lifetime of his profligate lifestyle, but Lazarus was carried to Abraham’s bosom. This is another way to work around the theme of the judicious use, or not, of temporal resources.
 
If a person would rather look at a narrative with more of an historical base, then we might go to our first reading from the Prophet Amos. That prophecy stands at the historical time point of the impending fall of the Northern Kingdom of Israel to Assyria in 722-721 BCE.

Our passage describes the false confidence of those who lived in luxurious self-indulgence while tragically ignoring the fate of their nation in the approaching onslaught of Assyria. We can readily understand that the message of Amos was not well received! If we just take a moment to look ahead at the chapter following our reading, we will see that Amos was told by Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, to go home and never come back to the Northern Kingdom.

Whether it was liked or not, Amos delivered the word of the Lord at Bethel. Then follows a description of the horrible atrocities that would befall their nation.
 
Do our readings this week give us anything nice to think about? Yes.  Paul’s advice to Timothy is very uplifting. Also, the psalm that is used for the psalm response is a beautiful prayer that praises God for His help to those who need it. That may be all of us!
 
Happy is the one whose help is the God of Jacob, whose help is in the Lord our God. Praise the Lord!  

Sister Betty Jane is a faculty member at the Athenaeum of Ohio.

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