It may well be fruitful for all of us if we applied THIS SUNDAY’S OLD TESTAMENT READING [AMOS 6: 1a. 4 – 7] to our own faith-religious lives and the too comfortable ‘creation’ of “beds of ivory” on which we can all too easily stretch ourselves in a mirage of security! Does discipleship carry with it any real element of comfortable existence? Perhaps, here, we need to return to the Gospel extract for the 13th Sunday when we spoke of the peace which only a fire can provide, and the picture of the three who were either invited to follow or voluntarily offered themselves?

WHAT WE BELIEVE IS NOT NEARLY AS IMPORTANT AS THE WAY, THE MANNER, IN WHICH WE BELIEVE IT.

In other words, we need to ensure that a plurality of devotions and the activities involved therein does not camouflage our focus on the basic essentials of faith as outlined for us in the Creed. We should, rather, secure the foundations of our faith on the person of Jesus Christ and what HE SAID. This should never be obscured by or sidelined, for example, by what some saint said was revealed to him or her in an apparition in Outer Mongolia!

If we look at TODAY’S PSALM [146 or 145] the challenge to many of our comfortable couches is stated at the very start of the first stanza: “It is the Lord who preserves fidelity forever.” Personally I am extremely wary of spiritual straitjackets which are presented as the only ‘solution’ to progress and growth in and of discipleship. What about our belief in the ever-present influence and activity of the Holy Spirit?

Is the straitjacket really all that comfortable or is it, rather, that we are afraid to throw it off, break new ground, and try new approaches? I should adopt a new strategy in the sure and certain belief that the Lord preserves my fidelity even as I venture to see and experience a wider world of faith activity. In fact our Psalm goes on in the next stanza to remind us that

“it is the Lord who opens the eyes of the blind.”

Never forget that there are none so blind as those who will not see

! Our reading from AMOS presents a chilling picture of those who will not see a single inch further than the comfortable straitjacket in which they have placed themselves.

Now, if we look at TODAY’S GOSPEL [LUKE 16: 19 – 31] we notice that therich manis, as an individual, the mirror image of Amos’ group and has also placed himself in a straitjacket to such an extent that he is incapable {completely blind} of noticing Lazarus {a living PERSON} “at his gate.” Lazarus is in a visibly pitiful, distressing (if not shocking) state – at the very gate – but remains unnoticed. Sometimes we do not even pause long enough to recognise our own ‘state’ which is crying out to be noticed, relieved, and upgraded. A comfortable, accustomed, routine of discipleship has made us prisoners. Do not overlook the striking apposition presented by Luke (the masterful storyteller!) …. the one in need is NAMED! He is a living, real PERSON! On the other hand, the man who is “clothed in purple and fine linen” remains, throughout the story, merely a someone (a nobody?)! This apposition continues right to the end of the story. Abraham is ‘named’ and on further occasionsso is Lazarus.

Each one of us must learn to name ourselves in our discipleship. This ‘naming’ is a reminder of our call to move beyond any straitjacket in which we may have imprisoned ourselves. In addition if we name ourselves as disciples it helps us to recognise the ongoing, real, condition in which we find ourselves. It is always a condition of need – and that need is usually at our very gate! Attending to our real needs may well require us to CHANGE OUR COMFORT ZONE. If we wait too long, it might well be too late …. the rich man recognised his need far too late. In fact from the beginning the rich man was the poor man …. the one in need.

We could, in this general context, also profit by reflecting on some phrases from the NEW TESTAMENT READING [1 TIMOTHY 6: 11 – 16]. Saint Paul encourages Timothy to “fight the good fight of faith, take hold of ..” We are unable to fight or take hold of anything if we are too comfortable on our couches. Faith and discipleship are, indeed fightswe have to constantly wrestle with them. However, they are good fights. We have always to struggle for a richer, more meaningful and realistic a discipleship.

But we fight, as Paul tells us “in the presence of God who gives life.” Never forget what the Psalm has already told us: “it is the Lord who preserves fidelity (and) opens the yes of the blind.”