Sins of Omission
Jesus is on the way to Jerusalem. He teaches life in the kingdom of God. Today’s reading invites us to reflect on the sin of omission. Can I live to continue living in comfort while turning a blind eye to those around me who are in misery?
During the time of Amos, the Davidic kingdom was divided into two: Israel, the northern kingdom with its capital Samaria, and Judah, the Southern kingdom with its capital Jerusalem. Amos was a sheep breeder of Tekoa in Judah, but God called him to prophesy in the northern kingdom during the prosperous region of Jeroboam II. They didn’t care much for his words, and he was expelled by the priest in charge of the royal sanctuary.
They were lying on ivory beds…they bawl to the harp sound of the harp…they dine on the lambs from the flock, drinking wine from the bowlful and using the finest oil for anointing themselves. It was all good, it was a blessing from God, but how they used it selfishly. They forgot others in need.
In today’s Gospel, the story of the rich Man and Lazarus tells us what is expected of us as disciples of Christ. In Jewish tradition, they believed that poverty and sickness result from God’s punishment. Deuteronomy 28:58&59, “If you are not careful to observe all the words of this law which are written in this book, and to fear this glorious and awesome name, the LORD, your God, the LORD will bring upon you and your descendants wondrous calamities, severe and constant calamities, and malignant and constant sicknesses.” For the rich, wealth is God’s blessing, so they can live a luxurious life. We read in Luke 6: 24, “But woe to you who are rich, for you, have received your consolation.” In the character of the rich man, we can see the evidence of love for money and the lack of mercy for the poor Lazarus. We don’t see in the Gospel he is doing anything against Lazarus. But we can see he ignored Lazarus, not helping in his hardship.
The interesting aspect of this story is God gave the poor man a name, Lazarus, which means God is my help. Despite a life of misfortune and suffering, Lazarus does not lose hope in God. In the second part of the story, Lazarus is enjoying Heavenly bliss as a reward for his fidelity to God in his poverty and suffering, while the rich man is thrown down into the excruciating suffering of Hell as punishment for not showing mercy to Lazarus, who was in need.
The question may come to our mind, why was the rich man punished? Did he commit any sin? The sin of the rich man is the sin of omission although he did not drive either the poor Lazarus or the stray dogs from in front of his door nor did he prevent either from sharing the discarded crumbs and leftovers from his table. He did not kick Lazarus. He was not cruel to him. But he failed to recognize Lazarus as a human being and a brother. He did no wrong, but he did nothing good, either. In Catholic teaching, that is the sin of omission: not doing what one is supposed to do.
What is the sins of omission? If we leave undone the good or the duties to which we are bound by those obligations, we commit sins of omission. In the story of the rich man and Lazarus is not recognizing the needy. What are some of our sins of omission?