C Cycle – 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time 22
God speaking to us through the prophet Amos, says “woe to the complacent.” As Amos was speaking those words, they were aimed at those who indulged themselves in every form of pleasure. Food, drink, music, sex, and every comfort in the world. At the same time, they ignored the fact that society was collapsing, and they were oblivious, unconcerned, and lulled into a sense of believing all was well. God was giving them a wakeup call and they failed to respond. Jesus in the parable of the rich man and the beggar is repeating those same words, that same wake up call to us today.
We seem to be unaware of how easily we can become complacent as we seek to satisfy ourselves and believe we are pleasing God. How easily we can ignore the signs flashing all around us to pay attention to the call of God to become servants, givers instead of receivers. It was not the rich man’s wealth that sent him to the “nether world’ after his death. No, it was his inability to see beyond his own sense of self. He ignored Lazarus, who sat at his front door every day. This rich man, did not have him removed, did not complain about his presence at his doorstep. He ignored him and failed to even send him a cup of water, or the scraps that fell from his table.
We know nothing about this rich man’s spiritual life or how he attained his wealth. We know he was an Israelite and because Jesus used him in his parable, we know he was a faithful Jew and that elevates this story to another dimension far beyond wealth and self indulgence. The end of the story about sending someone from the dead to warn his brothers holds the key to our responding to this parable.
Let us go back for a minute and move away from a focus on wealth and pay attention to the ways we are complacent, while enjoying the gifts of God’s creation. We can easily overindulge in watching TV, scrolling through our phones, playing golf, or watching sports, drinking, eating, tending our yards, and enjoying fine music. All those things can detract from our ability to see beyond ourselves and hear the voice of God pleading with us to pay attention. Pay attention to what is the real question this parable wants us to consider. What does God require of us? Not what should we be doing for God but what does God want from us.
Many would say obedience, keep the commandments, be present each Sunday, tithe and give of yourself.
if you read the scriptures obedience is one of those things that can fill us with complacency. Obedience can move us from God rather than closer to God. Because we mistake obedience as compliance with some standard of holiness, we can control ourselves.
This rich man in the story and those spoken to by the Prophet Amos were followers of the law, they complied with all required of them by the law. They tithed, they paid the temple tax, they sacrificed for their sins, and they were present in the temple on the Sabbath. Does any of that sound like why God created us at the beginning of creation when there was only God interacting with us.
Think about it for a minute, if God only wanted us to be obedience, then why did he give us free will? God could have created us without free will and like the angels endowed with a never ending praise of God and giving ourselves to serve God. However, he gave us the ability use our free will to indulge ourselves and enjoy all the pleasures of this world. Free will to enjoy all the pleasurable things of the world without ever losing sight of the desire of God to give him our hearts. God desire us to enjoy all he created and at the same time desire his presence more than anything else we find pleasing to us.
How many times in the scriptures are we called “children of God?” Think about how small children can laugh and run for hours in and out of a lawn sprinkler. All the while we as parents, watch them and delight in their joy. This is how God desires us to enjoy all the joys of earth. Yet at the same time our greatest pleasure as parents come when they crawl into our laps and put their arms around us and embrace us. This is the desire of God for us. To choose him over all other things.
This parable challenges us by its final words to grasp the significance of the death of Jesus and how it removed the barrier of sin separating us from God. We have by the death of Jesus have become the righteousness of God, sons, and daughters of the Most High. We have been redeemed by the death and resurrection of Christ. We have become new creations in Christ Jesus. Yet the world lures us into complacency and then we fail to appropriate the grace of the cross for strength to live a life giving glory to God. To avoid complacency, we must daily allow the Spirit to empower us to see, hear and feel the presence of God and to see the opportunities to give witness to his presence.