2nd Week of Lent
1st Reading: Jer 17:5-10
Thus says the Lord: Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh, whose heart turns away from the Lord. He is like a barren bush in the desert that enjoys no change of season, But stands in a lava waste, a salt and empty earth. Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is the Lord. He is like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream: It fears not the heat when it comes, its leaves stay green; In the year of drought it shows no distress, but still bears fruit. More tortuous than all else is the human heart, beyond remedy; who can understand it? I, the Lord, alone probe the mind and test the heart, To reward everyone according to his ways, according to the merit of his deeds.
Gospel Lk 16:19-31
Jesus said to the Pharisees: “There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores. When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.’ Abraham replied, ‘My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented. Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours.’ He said, ‘Then I beg you, father, send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment.’ But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.’ He said, ‘Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ Then Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.’“
The danger of indifference: Anthony de Mello tells a story of a man whose teaching was being misinterpreted so terribly that he felt obliged to come back to life to correct the false teaching for the benefit of humanity. When he finally descended, the interest of his hearers was on how he had managed to come back and not on the teaching. What is important for people is not what one teaches but their interpretation. Instead of loving people and using things, we love things and use people to get things. We place value on people according to their material possessions. In the story, Lazarus was a landscape object at the entrance to the premises of the rich man. No one cared. Many psychologists say that worse than hate, is indifference or apathy – a situation where the other person is non-existent and irrelevant. Jeremiah in the First Reading today admonishes us, “Cursed is the man who puts his trust in human beings while his heart turns away from God.”
PRAYER: Lord, may we realise that we build true treasures when we help the needy – both near and far. Amen!
A NEW LEASE OF LIFE: Dogs surrounding Lazarus and licking his wounds, shows his immense poverty and the lack of care from the rich man. While God graciously looks at the afflicted, He ignores and punishes the rich man. Compared to Jeremiah, the poor trust in God while the rich trust in their wealth. Trust in worldly wealth lands us in hell, and in torment, in pain and anguish. This is where the rich man ends up. For the poor, the afflicted; those who lay their trust in God, their suffering shall end. Not only will they stop suffering, but they shall be rewarded. Unfortunately, we have to learn to listen to these truths from our life examples and from those we easily ignore on earth. May we trust “Spend our todays preparing for a tomorrow that will last forever”. May we desist from only dropping a few coins in front of the miserable. Let us embrace the poor.
Prayer: God help us to deal kindly with the poor and the suffering.
LAZARUS – ONE WHO DEPENDS ON GOD: This is one of the parables found only in Luke. To begin with, we notice some details in this parable. The rich man did not ill-treat Lazarus. He only allowed a gap to grow between the two. The poor man died and was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was just buried. Notice the contrast. Then in the next life there is a continuity and a contrast; the gap that the rich man created on earth by his indifference has now become an abyss that cannot be bridged. So, he has to bear the consequences of his own choice. Even father Abraham cannot help. The gospel text is not glorifying material poverty. ‘Lazarus’ means one who depends on God. In the season of Lent, the gospel text invites us to examine if we are creating an abyss between us and others by our arrogance. It invites us to depend on God!
DANGERS OF MATERIALISM: We are living in a materialistic world where riches can become the master of humankind. People can be so absorbed in acquiring wealth that they sacrifice their souls. They are willing to violate God’s commandments to get wealth. There are many people who are willing to kill and even destroy others for the sake of wealth. Drug and human trafficking are quick avenues to wealth yet crimes against humanity. Jesus calls the poor or poor in spirit “blessed.” These poor are those who lack worldly possessions, who are looked down upon and often exploited. In their need, they turn to God and put their trust in God, not in this world. Lazarus belongs to this kind of poor. Lazarus rests in “Abraham’s bosom”, is “in consolation” because he trusted in and depended on God. Lazarus was rewarded his lack of possessions abundantly by God. Trust in and dependence on God is a virtue.