The Book of Amos, of which our first reading comes from, is only nine chapters long. It is very short but packs a powerful punch. Amos begins with oracles of doom, moves onto summons of judgments, continues with a series of woes, and finishes with a series of visions. None of these proclamations are pleasant, nor do they offer that warm and fuzzy feeling we often hope to receive. Be not afraid. You may relax your shoulders if you are experiencing concern that I will be leading you through each oracle, summons, woe, and vision. I am not. I will only be making a few comments from the first reading as it may provide us some insight into our Gospel. If we listen well to this first line and act accordingly, we will not need all the rest.
I invite you to take a deep breath or two as I begin.
Amos said:
 “Thus says the Lord, the God of hosts: Woe to the complacent in Zion!”
Amos called the leadership of both the divided northern and southern kingdoms of Israel out for their “self-indulgent aristocracy” (Andersen).
He called the royal houses of Israel and, indirectly, Judah, to repentance and to return to just leadership by giving of each one their due. To be complacent in the context of this text, means that the leadership was showing a lack of concern or care for the welfare of their people who they were to serve. Not only were they enjoying the high life of “sleeping on beds of ivory” and engaging in opulent “revelry” they continued to enslave their own people into service, since the time of King Solomon and continued to do so.
There also continued to be a growing gap between the rich and the poor. The leadership seemed to forget the significant event of their founding as a people when God heard the cry of the poor and sent Moses and Aaron to liberate his people from their slavery in Egypt. These Hebrew slaves were their ancestors. They were called to be the chosen people of God not for themselves and their own sake but to be a light to the nations, to be set apart, to be holy, not to be like the other corrupt and sinful nations that surrounded them.
The kings did not listen to Amos or the other prophets and except for the rare light of hope with king Josiah for a brief period, Israel would fall under the military weight of the world powers around them. The northern kingdom would fall to Assyria in 722 BC, the southern kingdom of Judah would not only be conquered but the Temple would be destroyed by Babylon in 586 BC. The exiled members of Judah would return and rebuild the temple by 515 BC while under the rule of the Persians and then later by the Greeks. By the time of Jesus, Rome was the occupying nation over Israel.
In our Gospel from Luke, Jesus took up the mantle of Amos as he called out the Pharisees in the same way. “There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day” (Lk 16:19). The imagery and specific details here that Jesus opens his parable with “suggests the sort of opulence and overdone sumptuousness found in Amos” (Johnson).
The rich man also shows the same complacency and lack of caring about the plight of the poor man at his door. When he takes the time to leave his daily sumptuous dinners is he even aware that Lazarus exists? Just as ancient Israel would be held to account, so the rich man will be as well.
Even in the afterlife, he continues to show contempt for Lazarus. He asks Abraham to send Lazarus to give him a drink of water. Notice that Lazarus is named in this parable, but the rich man is not. The rich man chose his comfort, wealth, and opulence over sharing with those in need. He didn’t bother to care, and worse, he didn’t even appear to be aware of the need.
God spoke through Amos to call the Israelite leadership to repent, he spoke to the Pharisees and Jewish leadership through his Son, now he speaks to us through his Word today.
Are we aware of the need of those in our midst?
St. Mother Teresa shared an account of when she went out one night to give a cup of rice to a Hindu family she knew that had no food. She arrived at the home and was welcomed by the mother there. She was very grateful for the rice but when she received it, she cut the portion in half and left. When she returned, Mother Teresa asked her where she had gone. The woman replied, “They have no food either.” The woman was aware that her Muslim neighbor was hungry as well. She was aware of their need, and without hesitation she shared the little she was just given.
Are we aware? Are we aware of those in need around us? Even in our own homes? Our parish? I have experienced some of that awareness already. I have been met with wonderful hospitality already since I have begun to serve on the weekends at St. John Fischer Catholic Church.
We also need to remember that there are many needs we and our neighbors experience and not just for food. People long to belong, to be valued, to be loved. We are all quite capable of being thankful for what God has given us. May we be aware and willing to share what God has given. It can be just as simple as when we catch someone’s eye, to offer a smile and a hello. In that simple act, we say that you exist to me, you matter. The next encounter we can have a conversation and we can build from there.
Let us heed the words of Amos and Jesus to honestly assess where we have and have not been charitable in the sharing of our time, talent, and treasure with the people we encounter. May each of us pray at the beginning of each day for a heart and mind that continues to be open to serve those in our midst, in our families, our parish, and in our neighbors.
Our neighbors are more than those next door. As we acknowledge the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, may we ponder and put into practice the words of Pope Francis: “We are called to renew our commitment to building a future that conforms ever more fully to God’s plan of a world in which everyone can live in peace and dignity.”

Photo: This summer we visited Fr. Ben and the parish of St. John Fischer where I am now blessed to serve on the weekends!
Francis I. Andersen and David Noel Freedman, Amos: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, vol. 24A, Anchor Yale Bible (New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2008), 560.
Luke Timothy Johnson, The Gospel of Luke, ed. Daniel J. Harrington, vol. 3, Sacra Pagina Series (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1991), 252.
Pope Francis quote accessed from IG post from catholicreliefservices.

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