2nd Week of Lent, Thursday, Mar 4
Jeremiah 17:5-10 / Luke 16:19-31
Jesus talks about concern for the poor; "There was a rich man….
It's instructive to note what the sin of the rich man is in this parable. It's not that he calls the police to have Lazarus removed from his gate.It's not that he objects to giving Lazarus the scraps from his table. It's not that he kicks Lazarus each time he passes him. What, then, is the rich man's sin? The rich man's sin is that he ignores Lazarus. His sin is that he doesn't lift a finger to help him. His sin is that he closes his eyes to the fact that Lazarus exists. His sin is not what he does to Lazarus. Rather, it is what he doesn't do for him.
What are we doing to help the needy in our midst? "The sin of the rich man was not that he did wrong things, but that he did nothing." William Barclay
Those who place their faith in themselves and in the means they possess are not open to God or God’s kingdom. They make themselves their own gods and adore what they have made. They adore the golden calf. They fail to see the needs of others, especially of the poor. Those who have more are not condemned because they have more, but because they don’t see the needs of those who have less. We must learn to see also the unspoken needs of the poor, especially of the humble, of those who dare not voice their poverty and distress.
Whenever we are on the streets, we are quite certain to encounter some people that belong to a so-called "class" in our society. We can be quite sure to meet some "poor" people, those who seem to be in some kind of financial difficulty. They may be those who are really down-and-out and begging in the streets; there are others who are not certain of when they are going to have their next meal; others may be hovering just above the poverty line. So even in our affluent country, we do see the presence of poor people. And if we bother to go further into the matter, then we will realise that there are genuinely poor people in our society.
The parable in today's gospel makes us realise this reality and also asks us what are we going to do about it and how are we helping the poor? That brings to mind that one of the spiritual disciplines of Lent is almsgiving and last weekend we received the Charities Week envelopes. How much are we going to put into the envelope and how much are we going to give in regular almsgiving depends very much on how we understand what God wants us to do for the poor. More than charity, it is our duty to help the poor, and it is also about justice to the poor when we understand that we are stewards who should look after the weak and poor members of our community and society. It also underscores our faith in the Lord God. As the 1st reading puts it: A blessing on the man who puts his trust in the Lord ... he is like a tree by the waterside ... it has no worries of drought and never ceases to bear fruit.
When we understand that it is our duty to help the poor and that it is an act of justice, then we will receive that blessing from the Lord and we will continue to bear fruits for the Lord.
1. Life Is Good!: The rich man enjoyed life. He had the finest clothes and the best foods. He had lots of money and he used it for his own benefit. Remember, the Jews believed that if a man was righteous, God would bless him with riches, health, and many other benefits. Perhaps this man was at peace, thinking that God had been pleased by the way he lived. Yet at his gate, there was someone who should have stolen his peace away.
2. All for Me and None for You: Jewish people were taught that it was a good thing to give alms to the poor, and that they could be forgiven for sins by doing so. The rich man passed Lazarus every day and, as a Jew, his conscience should have prompted him to help, but he did nothing at all. Because he neglected Lazarus, the rich man was separated for all eternity by a great chasm from the bosom of Abraham. He had the wherewithal to beg for his brothers, but even those pleas were fruitless. By his covetousness while he was alive, he secured abject poverty for all eternity. It’s a good reminder for us that our actions each day have eternal consequences.
3. Am I the Rich Man?: Many of us lead comfortable lives. Does God see in us any semblance of what he saw in the rich man? How aware are we of the poor or needy who live nearby? We may not walk over them every time we enter our house, but perhaps we see them on our way to work or school or the supermarket. None of us can take care of all the needy people in the world, but we can certainly help them one at a time.
Conversing with Christ: Lord, open my eyes to see life as you see it. Show me how you want me to use my gifts for others, and where I may be holding back. You taught us the spiritual and corporal works of mercy and I know that these please you. May I seize the opportunity to serve everyone in my path, according to your holy will.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will review the spiritual and corporal acts of mercy (see CCC 2447) and find one that needs to be extended toward my neighbours.
Lord our God, many of us never had it so good and so we have become smug and self-satisfied, happy in our own little world. God, may our ears remain open to your word and our hearts to you and to our brothers and sisters. Do not allow us to forget you, or to place our trust in ourselves. Make us restless for you through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen