Rich Man Poor Man

Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Amos 6:1A, 4-7

Thus says the LORD the God of hosts: Woe to the complacent in Zion! Lying upon beds of ivory, stretched comfortably on their couches, they eat lambs taken from the flock, and calves from the stall! Improvising to the music of the harp, like David, they devise their own accompaniment. They drink wine from bowls and anoint themselves with the best oils; yet they are not made ill by the collapse of Joseph! Therefore, now they shall be the first to go into exile, and their wanton revelry shall be done away with.

1 Timothy 6:11-16

But you, man of God, pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. Compete well for the faith. Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called when you made the noble confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you before God, who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus, who gave testimony under Pontius Pilate for the noble confession, to keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ that the blessed and only ruler will make manifest at the proper time, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, and whom no human being has seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal power. Amen.

Luke 16:19-31

Jesus said to the Pharisees: “There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man's table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores. When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he cried out, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.' Abraham replied, ‘My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented. Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours.’ He said, ‘Then I beg you, father, send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment.' But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.’ He said, ‘Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ Then Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.’”

Our readings for the Sunday are two of the very strong biblical statements regarding justice and responsibility of the rich towards the poor.

The first reading is taken from the remarkable Book of the Prophet Amos, who is a favorite prophet among those who work for justice. He says, “Thus says the Lord God of host: Woe to those who are complacent in Zion… Those who lie on beds of ivory, and lounge upon their couches, while the poor languish” (Amos 6:1-6). What Amos intuits is heart of the Law, the Law of God, from a keen sense of justice to our compassion for any oppressed, marginalized, and poor people of their sufferings.

The overtone of Amos can also be heard clearly in our gospel, the parable of the Dives and Lazarus. “Dives”, a rich man in Latin, is someone who lives in luxury every day. At his gate lied a beggar named Lazarus who is covered with sores and is longing to eat what is fallen off from the rich man’s table (Ref Lk 16:19-21). This injustice cries out to heaven for vengeance; then we hear about the rest of the story: “Both men died, Lazarus is taken up to the bosom of Abraham, and Dives is in hell, in torment” (Ref. Lk 16:12-23).

Think of this torment that begins even now. What has been described is the suffering that comes from isolation, for we are meant to be connected to one another precisely through God. When we lock ourselves into the narrow space of our ego, we are in conflict with our own nature, subsequently, we suffer. The rich man is “closed” and “caved in” on himself, and that is the torment on himself, such is the torment holding him captive. The creator God is the Lord of creations, and therefore the owner of all things. Ultimately, nothing belongs to any of us. We do not have control over any of our possessions, instead, God does. We are not masters but only stewards of God’s possessions, and stewardship implies cooperation with God’s intention.

St. Thomas of Aquinas has put it this way. He says, “We have right to ownership the private property, but in regard to the use of our private property, the common good, that means the good of the whole human family, must always be paramount.” (Ref. Summa Theologica, I-II, q.66, a.1-2) This is an extraordinary and deeply challenging observation! Therefore, the correct attitude to ask is, “Why is God permitting me to have this wealth?” I can reassure that our whole financial life will take a new turn if we ask that question this way, “What does God want me to do with this money which He allows me to have?”, and “How does my wealth serve God’s will?”

Dear friends, whether we like it or not, the story of Lazarus at the gate reminds us that we are called by God to care for the poor, an image of God Himself.

This is an excerpt from Bishop Robert Barron’s homilies, including “Rich man, Poor man”, “Lazarus and the Rich man”, and “Amos’s Challenge”. For more information, please visit

Posted: September 29, 2019

Ben Cheng


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