Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
1) Am 6:1, 4-7
2) 1 Tm 6:11-16
Gospel: Lk 16:19-31
In our first reading, the prophet Amos speaks about people who have sophisticated tastes in creature comforts. Fine furniture, fine dining, fine entertainment — these people have done well economically and know how to enjoy themselves.
Amos is not pleased. He delivers a threatening message. “Woe!” Watch out! A reversal of fortune is coming their way, he warns.
So sour! Does Amos think heaven is set against all earthly pleasures? That God doesn’t want anyone to ever serve veal or uncork a bottle of select wine? Does he expect everyone to be a monk or nun? Is there some envy at work here? Because Amos works as a seasonal agricultural laborer (see Am 7:14), does he think no one should live in a big house and put on nice parties?
It is not essentially the partying of the party crowd that Amos objects to. The problems are that these people got wealthy by taking advantage of others (much of the rest of the book of Amos details their injustices) and that their neighbors’ desperate needs don’t bother them.
The suffering of people around them who don’t have enough to eat doesn’t take the edge off the partygoers’ appreciation of tender steaks and rare vintages. They “are not made ill by the collapse of Joseph” — that is, Israelite society — because, mentally, they keep their distance from it. They ignore the sights, sounds and smells of the destitute.
A deeper problem is that, even though they ignore other people’s needs, they think they are in a solid relationship with God. Amos calls them “the complacent in Zion.” God has made them his chosen people (Am 3:1-2) and they love to participate in his liturgies (Am 4:4-5). Why should they care about other people or worry about what tomorrow may bring?
Granted, not all of us in church this Sunday are wealthy, by a long shot. But I suspect that many of us can feel Amos’ finger pointing in our direction.
The challenge is to hear Amos’ message not as a word of condemnation designed to make us feel guilty about enjoying the pleasures of life but as a summons to open our hearts. Is there one person we know who is in some kind of pain? Can we feel a little compassion? What action could we take to help meet their need?
Perrotta is the editor and an author of the “Six Weeks With the Bible” series, teaches part time at Siena Heights University and leads Holy Land pilgrimages. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.