Sunday, September 18, 2016

Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time - September 25, 2016

First Reading Commentary
The ancient languages translate "the complacent in Zion" more severely.  The Syriac is translated as "the despisers of Zion" and the Hebrew translates as "those who hate Zion". 
The tragedy which this Reading deals with is the rich neglecting the poor.  The collapse of Joseph is a reference to the sufferings of humanity which these idle rich seem to have no share in, nor any desire to lessen.  The collapse of Joseph may also be referring to a moral collapse among the Israelites which these men, some of whom may be priests, have no concern with. 
The scene this Reading paints is not all that foreign to our modern day.  Complacency and moral decadence are not strangers to our culture.  One can be materially rich and one can be spiritually rich.  Both forms of riches are gifts from God.  The Almighty calls each of us not to hoard but to share the gifts He has entrusted to us, both material and spiritual.
Second Reading Commentary
Saint Paul begins this Reading by listing the qualities necessary for living a Christian life.  Saint John Chrysostom points out that the title "man of God" is not to be taken lightly; it is one of the highest titles and commendations that can be given to any man.  Paul is addressing Timothy by this title.  In the Old Testament Samuel, Elijah and Elisha were also addressed by this title. 
"Compete well for the faith" literally from the Greek means to "fight the good fight" or more precisely "strive a good strife".  Paul mentions Christ Jesus as the One "Who gave testimony under Pontius Pilate for the noble confession".  This actually has two possible meanings and it's not known for certain which meaning Paul is using.  First, it could mean Christ's confession before Pilate that He was a King but not of this world.  In other words, He is the Son of God.  The other meaning is that Christ taught and suffered under the reign of Pontius Pilate who was the governor of Judea. 
"The appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ" is laid out in the Greek text as the day that will be desirable for Christians who have preserved their baptismal innocence; but terrible, in the extreme, for all who have lived in constant neglect of their Christian duties.  Eternal life is a free gift because there is nothing we can do in this life that is worthy enough for so valuable a prize.  In this life, however, Christians have a moral mandate which is best preserved by following the example and teachings of Jesus Christ.
Gospel Commentary
The following words are translated from the Latin text of the Book of Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) and offers precise directives about cultivating a charitable and humble heart: "Son, do not defraud the poor of alms, and do not turn away your eyes from the poor.  Do not despise the hungry soul; and do not provoke the poor in his want.  Do not afflict the heart of the needy, and defer not to give to him that is in distress.  Do not reject the petition of the afflicted; and do not turn away your face from the needy.  Deliver him that suffers wrong out of the hand of the proud; and do not be fainthearted in your soul.  In judging be merciful to the fatherless as a father, and as a husband to their mother.  And you shall be as the obedient son of the Most High, and He will have mercy on you more than a mother" (Ecclesiasticus 4:1-4, 9-11). 
It's relatively easy to make the connection between this Gospel and the First Reading from the Prophet Amos.  The parable that Jesus uses here is found only in Saint Luke's Gospel.  Abraham's authority is presented here to show the mindset of Moses; for Moses, the Law and the Prophets are not and cannot be in opposition to Abraham. 
A very ancient theory suggests that this parable is a true story because of the use of names for character portrayals.  Our Lord did not do this in any of His other parables.  Saint Luke is not teaching that the poor are closer friends of God than the rich but the lesson asks a question: In this life, what are you doing with the gifts the Lord gave you?  Being poor or rich is not the issue as Saint Ambrose explains: "A man may be reserved and modest in the midst of riches and honors, as he may be proud and avaricious in the obscurity of a poor and wretched life." 
The rich man, in torment, begs that Lazarus be sent to warn his five brothers for fear that they too will end up tormented.  The rich man and his brother obviously do not understand what it takes to be a companion of Abraham who is the ideal friend of God.  Abraham replies that they have Moses and the prophets.  To a Jew there is nothing more authoritative than the Law and the Prophets which teaches charity to the less fortunate.  Therefore, the moral of the parable is that when it comes to the duty of charity, Jesus is in full accord with the Law and the Prophets. 
As Catholics, the lesson here is that the obligations which are to be learned concerning charity are not likely to come from a friend or relative rising from the dead or by any other miraculous means; but only from Scripture and the teaching authority of the Church.