Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday we heard from the words of the Scriptures reminding us all to be always vigilant that we do not end up falling into worldly temptations and excesses, and that we will strive to do what is right and just in the sight of the Lord and mankind alike. We have to be exemplary in all of our actions in life so that we will not end up falling deeper and deeper into the wrong path and then end up with an eternity of regret, as we may find out too late that we are at the wrong side of the afterlife, not with God and His glory, but on the other side, separated from Him and having to endure an eternity of despair and suffering.
In our first reading today, we heard from the prophet Amos, a prophet whom God had sent from the land of Judah to the land of the northern kingdom of Israel during its last days. The prophet Amos called on the people of the northern kingdom to repent from their sins as almost all of their kings and leaders refused to follow the Lord’s path and led the people deeper and deeper into sin, persecuting and killing the prophets who were sent to them to remind them. The prophet Amos himself suffered persecution and rejection from the king of Israel and from the people who continued to live in their debauchery and wickedness, rejecting the Lord’s path and continuing to marvel at their wicked ways.
That was exactly what the prophet Amos warned about in our first reading today, that all those who feasted and celebrated without heed for the Lord’s ways and without listening to God’s calls made to them repeatedly, would therefore face their just punishment and consequences in the end. This would presage the coming of the end of the northern kingdom of Israel, which despite the efforts of the people of that kingdom and their king, was eventually overcome and swallowed by the mighty forces of the Assyrians, who came and destroyed Samaria, their capital and also their other cities, and then uprooted many of the people into exile in distant lands.
All that the prophet Amos spoke of would come true, and despite the constant reminders from him and the many other earlier prophets, the people of the northern kingdom refused to heed them, and hence they were to suffer the consequences of their own actions. Those in the southern kingdom of Judah would also face the same fate as their kingdom and cities were destroyed by the Babylonians, and the people brought off into exile in Babylon and elsewhere. All these again happened, as the people continued to ignore the Lord’s repeated calls on them to return and be reconciled with Him.
In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the well-known story of Lazarus and the rich man from the Lord Himself, as He told His disciples what happened to Lazarus, a poor man who had nothing, and lived his life as a beggar in front of the house of a rich man. Lazarus had nothing with him and barely had anything to eat, that he had to wait even for the mere scraps of what fell down from the rich man’s table. And that poor man Lazarus died in a most terrible way, with no one to remember him and no one to mourn him, passing away by the rich man’s house doors, forgotten and neglected, and not even treated as how human beings should have been treated.
The rich man on the other hand had always had a good life, full of parties and celebrations, and he had nothing lacking at all. We heard then he also died and ended up in hellfire while Lazarus, the poor man ended up in Heaven with Abraham, the father of the Israelites. We saw the contrast of what happened to the rich man versus what Lazarus experienced, both in life and in the afterlife. Lazarus had to suffer in life, rejected and cast aside, but he had his reprieve and enjoy the everlasting bliss with God and his forefathers, with Abraham and the saints, while the rich man who had enjoyed a lot during his life, was cast down into an eternity of suffering and despair.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we recall this story again, let us all be clear first of all that God does not condemn the rich nor the riches and possessions that we have in this world, as some of us may think in that way after listening to this story of Lazarus and the rich man. Rather, what the Lord is warning us against, is the attachment that we can easily have for those worldly things like money, other forms of material possessions, and even things like fame and glory, human praise and adulation, influence and status among other things. Those things are not necessarily evil, as people can use money and their material goods to help others who are in need, but the tendency is that, if we allow our attachment and desires for those goods to mislead us in life, then we may end up going down the wrong path in life.
And it is also a kind reminder for us that we have been given a lot of opportunities and time throughout life for us to discern on this and consider the path to follow, and of whatever course of action that is necessary for us, that we may live our lives worthily for the Lord. Not only that, but we are also yet reminded that it is not just by what we have done that we can be judged, as yes, if we commit something against the Lord’s commandments and will, committing sin against Him, then it will be held against us, but we are also judged by what is known as the sin of omission. That was what the rich man was in particular, was to be blamed for, and why he also ended up in hellfire. He was in the right place and opportunity to help Lazarus and maybe others around him who are suffering, and yet, he chose to ignore them all.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, as Christians, each one of us are called to live a holy and godly life as what St. Paul told St. Timothy in his Epistle to him, part of which is our second reading passage today. We are all called to live our lives worthily of the Lord, and to do what has been commanded by God, till the day of the Lord’s coming, the Final Judgment, when certainly we do not want to end up on the wrong side of the Judgment. We certainly do not want our wickedness and as well as our failures to act and to do the will of God to lead us to condemnation in the eternity of suffering and despair, as what the rich man in the story had experienced. We have been given the choice and the knowledge of the consequences of each of our actions and our failures to act all the same, and we should heed these carefully.
That is why this Sunday, as we reflect upon the words of the Lord contained in the Sacred Scriptures, let us all discern carefully our path in life so that we will not end up in the wrong path in life, and ending up in an eternity of regret and damnation out of which there is no more hope of escaping. Hell is real, brothers and sisters in Christ, and it is this reminder of the existence of hell that should keep us on our toes, and being vigilant all the time that we do not end up in that situation. And we also should understand better what hell is all about. Hell is not so much a place than a state of mind and our souls. Hell has often been portrayed as a place that is very hot and full of fire, but in truth, the suffering of the souls in hell, which is eternal, is due to that knowledge and despair that come about because of one’s conscious decision to reject God, His grace, mercy and love.
Yes, that means, the souls of the condemned and the unworthy in hell are those who have consciously and consistently rejected God’s ever generous offer of love and mercy. Remember, brothers and sisters in Christ, that God’s mercy and love for us are so great that He has been willing to send us His own Begotten and Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Saviour. He offered us His love in the most tangible form, in the flesh and Person of our Lord Jesus Himself. He has borne our sufferings and consequences for our sins through His Holy Cross, shedding His Precious Blood and breaking His Precious Body for our sake. Through His ultimate expression of love, He gave us all the sure path to eternal life.
Hence, it is not God Who has rejected us, as He has always looked upon us with His loving and merciful eyes. It is we who have been given opportunities, reminders one after another, for us to return to Him and to be reconciled with Him, and embrace His grace and love once again. But we often ignored Him and disregarded Him, and like the people of Israel and Judah of old, and like the people living at the time of the Lord Jesus, who have hardened their hearts and minds against God and His truth. The same can easily happen to us as well if we allow ourselves to be swayed by the devil and all of his tempting false promises and lies, to follow the path of worldliness and evil.
Therefore, let us all from now on strive to be faithful to God in all things, and make good use of every opportunities that God has granted us, so that we may always be ever more worthy disciples of the Lord in each and every opportunities in life. Let us all do our best to love God and to show our love for our fellow brothers and sisters, abandoning what is wicked and evil, and crushing our pride and ego. Let us all embrace God with renewed faith, hope and love so that in everything that we say and do, we will always do what is right and worthy for God, and that each one of us may become good inspirations and role models for one another. May God be with us always, and may He strengthen us in our faith, now and always, evermore. Amen.