Jesus: the Witness for the Truth
|Illustration of Lazarus at the rich man's gate by Fyodor Bronnikov, 1886.|
those narratives which still has the power to touch us and shock us, as my Parish Priest said in his homily today: the power to embarrass us.
It's not just the Gospel though. Last week's consideration of wealth and power is narrowed down today to focus on the specific challenge posed by poverty and riches, and our reactions to both. The Prophet Amos once again depicts the moral bankruptcy of the Northern Kingdom in terms of their luxurious lifestyle. Indulgent eating and drinking, entertainment, rich furnishings and cosmetics, are a measure of the total hedonism in society so turned in on its selfish enjoyments that it is neglectful of the grave political menace confronting it. The Jewish people would soon have to pay the price of the Assyrian invasion and the complete destruction, not only of their lifestyle, but of their country as a political entity. They had consistently ignored the will of God expressed in the Law with its injunctions to compassion and charity. God's power and reign are made manifest in giving justice to the oppressed, feeding the hungry and setting prisoners free. If we are privileged with wealth and a position in society, we must use them to extend God's kindness and mercy to others.
Jesus' famous parable of Dives and Lazarus does not condemn ownership per se, but the use of possessions. We must be alert to the needs of our brothers and sisters, and listen to the advice of Moses and the prophets. This parable becomes a catalyst for asking us to look at our witness now as it relates to life after death, the reality of the Four Last Things: death, judgement, heaven and hell. What we are told affects how we behave and what we believe. If what we are told is revelation, we have a picture of the nature of God revealed in His Son, and made real in our hearts through the Holy Spirit in conversion and repentance.
St. Paul speaks to Timothy about Jesus "who spoke up as a witness for the truth in front of Pontius Pilate," and urges upon him "the duty of doing all that you have been told." This changes our sense of values, because in faith and hope we witness to the Kingdom of the afterlife, and our actions therefore carry a new meaning that is prophetic. We seek to emulate the Father, whom we hear about in the Psalm with a view to our own Trinitarian life in the world to come, "the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ," as what lies in the future. Luxury and witness are rarely found together. We must have a new notion of possessions, and share more, as a part of sharing our faith in Christ by the manner in which we lead our lives. Otherwise we separate ourselves from the Kingdom, in exile, in the isolation we call hell.