(Twenty-six Sunday in Ordinary Time)
Sunday, September 25, 2016.
What causes “the rich man” (Luke 16:19) to fall into the trap of his own wealth?
1. The self-gratification he receives from his wealth. The rich man “dressed in purple garments and fine linen dined sumptuously each day” (Luke 16:19). His “good” life renders him unwilling to acknowledge the needs of the one who is in misfortune. His wealth numbs his sensitivity toward the needs of others.
2. The indifference that sets in him as a result of his insensitivity. His indifference consists in the total disregard for the suffering of someone who is right next to him, of someone he knows. The poor man “is at his [the rich man’s] door.” The rich man just does not care. He loses the notion of what the human family is, or worse, in his eyes, the poor man is not even a human being.
3. The expectation that he can enjoy his wealth forever. In other words, the enjoyment the rich man receives from his wealth prevents him from coming to grips with his own mortality, with the temporality of his life. Each day he dresses superbly and dines sumptuously. But, apparently, he is not aware of the passing of his days; he believes that his “good” life, his “good” days will never end.
The transgression of the rich man consists of two elements:
1) His indifference toward the suffering of others and,
2) His inability to utilize his wealth to meet the needs of others.
By his indifference, he separates himself from the human family. And, by his inability to utilize his wealth to meet the needs of the poor, he distorts the purpose for which material possessions exist – the satisfaction of the needs of all. Thus, the rich man assigns to himself the exclusive “right” to the use of the world’s material goods for his own benefit.
The rich also present themselves collectively as a group: “Woe to the complacent [those who feel secure in their riches] . . . Lying upon beds of ivory, stretched comfortably on their couches . . . They drink wine from bowls and anoint themselves with the best oils; yet they are not made ill by the fall of [the nation]. Therefore, now they shall be the first ones to go into exile, and their wanton revelry shall be done away with” (Amos 6: 1, 4-7). The rich show callous disregard for the tragedies and sufferings afflicting entire nations.
How can the rich man break free from his trap?
He can get free from his trap by laying “hold of eternal life,” and by pursuing “righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience” and compassion before human suffering (1 Timothy 6:11-12).
(By Jesús A. Diez Canseco)