Thursday of the Second Week of Lent
Tree Planted Beside the Waters
Reading 1 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.
Responsorial Psalm PS 1:1-2, 3, 4 AND 6
R. (40:5a) Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
Blessed the man who follows not
the counsel of the wicked
Nor walks in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the company of the insolent,
But delights in the law of the LORD
and meditates on his law day and night.
R. Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
He is like a tree
planted near running water,
That yields its fruit in due season,
and whose leaves never fade.
Whatever he does, prospers.
R. Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
Not so, the wicked, not so;
they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
For the LORD watches over the way of the just,
but the way of the wicked vanishes.
R. Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
Verse Before The GospelSEE LK 8:15
Blessed are they who have kept the word with a generous heart
and yield a harvest through perseverance.
Lasarus outside rich man’s door by Tissot
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 Gospel from Luke which is given to us today adds that even if someone rises from the dead, people will not necessarily listen to him. This is strong medicine because it tells us that even with our faith in the Lord Jesus, we can end up ignoring those in need. Over and over in the New Testament, the Christian Scriptures, we are told that saying nice things is never enough. Our faith in the Lord Jesus must result in actual service to the poor, to the needy, to those who mourn, to those who lack clothes or food or any kind of care.
Not only are we told to love and serve others, we are even told to go to the extremes at times and give more than is asked of us. Loving and serving others must become a way of life for us, not something that we do when we have extra time! We are invited to learn how to follow Jesus! There is no way by which we can ever say: I did what He asked of me and that is enough. No, instead, we are invited to form a living relationship with God, a relationship that is ongoing, personal and loving at every moment of our lives. Our life must become a response to HIM.
Your brother in the Lord,
Monastery of Christ in the Desert https://christdesert.org/about/
Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, September 25, 2016 — Beware the sin of affluence — Woe to the complacent — Keep the commandments — We only have one ruler and master…. Be persuaded by the one who did rise from the dead….
What struck me in today’s parable of the rich man is that nothing negative was said of him. He was just minding his own business. He did not do anything to harm anyone. He was blessed with riches. He dressed “in purple and fine linen and feast magnificently every day” and probably invited his good friends to dine with him frequently. He committed no wrong in doing that as it is not a sin to be rich or to enjoy the good things of life. We should not feel guilty simply because we are able to afford a good meal or a good holiday. The Church is not against private possessions.
So what was the sin of the rich man? He was oblivious to the needs of others, especially those who were suffering. He was living in a world of his own. He forgot that he had a duty to be his brother’s keeper. The rich man was condemned because he failed to take notice of the poor Lazarus who was just outside his gate, hungry, tattered, torn and suffering from sores. Jesus condemned the rich man not because he was rich but because he used his possessions only for himself and failed to realize that he was obliged to share his goods and wealth with the poor and the needy.
Although we might have done nothing evil, yet the failure to use our wealth and resources responsibly for the good of all is itself a sin of omission. The point of the gospel story is that we are all children of Abraham and most of all, children of God, redeemed by Christ, created in God’s image and likeness. Every life is sacred to God and bought with the precious blood of Christ. We share a common humanity. Necessarily, we are called to follow Christ in reaching out to those who are poor, suffering and disadvantaged. Many are starving in the world, deprived of basic needs of life, food and accommodation because of famine and wars. Respect for the dignity of our brothers and sisters in Christ means that we are to ensure a fairer distribution of material resources to all. Poverty exists today simply because the minority rich owns 80% of the world’s resources! So it is not that we do not have enough food to feed all. It is just that the few are taking the food of the poor.
Today, the poor includes those who are spiritually and affectively poor as well. Depriving a person of God and His transcendent call is to short-change a person in finding fullness of life. When religions are discriminated or even prohibited, we are depriving the human person of the opportunity to find peace and happiness in God. The psalmist says, “A curse on the man who puts his trust in man, who relies on things of the flesh, whose heart turns from the Lord. He is like dry scrub in the wastelands: if good comes, he has no eyes for it, he settles in the parched places of the wilderness, a salt land, uninhabited.” Of course, we must not forget the many elderly today who are left alone to look after themselves because their children no longer live with them as they have their own lives to live.
Today, we are called to change our attitudes in the way we handle our riches and resources. In the first place, the gospel reminds us that earthly possessions are passing things. They do not withstand the test of time. We cannot bring even a needle into the next life. Like the rich man in the gospel, upon death, in the face of God’s love, he will find himself unable to be one with God and with the saints in heaven because he lacks the capacity to love. Upon death, only those who are generous of heart can enter the kingdom of God. Those who lack the capacity to love would have to undergo the purification of self in purgatory, not excluding the possibility of eternal hell for those who are completely closed to goodness and love.
Indeed, hell is but a state of selfishness and self-centeredness. It is a state of isolation from God and our fellowmen. Whenever we are not in union with others, we experience pain. The greater the union we share with our brothers and sisters, the greater is the joy. This explains why the rich man was never given a name as he does not know anyone and no one knows him. Only the poor Lazarus has a name because he is loved and acknowledged by God. The rich man without a name implies that he has no identity at all. He does not know what he is living for.
In other words, we need each other. The rich need the poor to find meaning and purpose in life. Only when they see God in the poor and the suffering, will they will then begin to value what they have and be grateful for God’s blessings. Unfortunately the rich man realized it too late. God gave him the poor to help him appreciate His love and share in His joy of giving but he did not understand. Lazarus was a gift of God to the rich man to awaken his heart of love but he did not receive it. Conversely, the poor need the rich to help them in their financial, personal and emotional needs. Lazarus was looking for support. God gives us to each other so that we can help each other. We are social beings, not just individuals. We are created as individuals, different and unique in order to love. Otherwise, we will love ourselves selfishly and that would be narcissism. In truth, we all need each other to be truly happy. No one is self-sufficient. Happiness is in giving and receiving. The rich give money and the poor give love. God gives us to each other so that we can share in His love and joy.
Consequently, we are called to walk the ways of the Lord if we intend to find real happiness in life. “A blessing on the man who puts his trust in the Lord. With the Lord for his hope. He is like a tree by the waterside that thrusts its roots to the stream: when the heat comes it feels no alarm, its foliage stays green; it has no worries in a year of drought, and never ceases to bear fruit.” If the rich man had walked in the ways of the Lord, he would have found happiness on earth and a greater happiness in heaven. Although Lazarus did not find happiness on earth and suffered much, yet, he was comforted in the next life.
Today, we are called to imitate Abraham, the father of hospitality. From the bible, we know that Abraham was a rich man and he had many flocks of sheep and goats; herds of cattle. But he was welcoming to strangers who came by. (cf Gn 18:1-5) Although he was the master, he made himself a servant to them. “My lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant.” (Gn 18:3) Instead of asking the servants to prepare the food for the strangers, he asked his wife to do it instead. (Gn 18:6) He treated every stranger as if they were the masters of the house. He was never selfish and welcomed travelers to stay in his tent. He would not let a passer-by leave without providing shelter and food. He would save those under persecution from their enemies. (Gn 14:14-16) He welcomed the stranger not because they were great and rich people but simply because he cared for them, regardless of their status and condition.
By so doing, unknowingly, he welcomed the Lord. Indeed, God came in the three strangers. Isn’t this what the Lord said, “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” (Mt 25:35f) “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” Not surprisingly, we read in the gospel, “Now the poor man died and was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham.” Abraham is the home of God because God lives in him as his guest. The poor man Lazarus was in the arms of Abraham and not any other prophet because the latter was a symbol of hospitality.
So, let us be forewarned of the reversal of values in the eyes of God. The psalmist counsels us, “Happy indeed is the man … who ponders his law day and night. He is like a tree that is planted beside the flowing waters, that yields its fruit in due season and whose leaves shall never fade; and all that he does shall prosper. Not so are the wicked, not so! For they like winnowed chaff shall be driven away by the wind, for the Lord guards the way of the just but the way of the wicked leads to doom.” The gospel of Luke underscores this theme even more forcefully in this parable when the rich man is cursed and punished whereas the poor man is blessed. God is on the side of the poor, for the name Lazarus means “God is my help.” God is faithful to the just at the end of time.
Alas, will we listen to this warning from the Lord? Many of us are oblivious, like the rich man. In his torment, he requested Abraham, “Father, I beg you then to send Lazarus to my father’s house, since I have five brothers, to give them warning, so that they do not come to this place of torment too.” But Abraham made it clear, “They have Moses and the prophets, let them listen to them. If they will not listen either to Moses or to the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead.” How true! The Lord knows the hearts of men. “The heart is more devious than any other thing, perverse too: who can pierce its secrets? I, the Lord, search the heart; I probe the loins to give man what his conduct and action deserve.” So let us not miss the opportunity to do good whilst we can. There are many Lazaruses out there waiting for us to encounter God through them. Let us not be like the rich man who lost sight of God because he was too preoccupied with himself and his enjoyment, seeking happiness only in the worldly things. Instead of growing in love through sharing and giving, his treasure was only on earth, not in heaven.
Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
Every time that Jesus has something important to communicate, he creates a story and tells a parable. In this way, through the reflection on an invisible reality, he leads those who listen to him to discover the invisible call of God, who is present in life. A parable is made to make us think and reflect. For this reason it is important to pay attention even to the smallest details. In the parable in today’s Gospel there are three persons. The poor Lazarus, the rich man without a name and Father Abraham. In the parable, Abraham represents the thought of God. The rich man without a name represents the dominating ideology of that time. Lazarus represents the silent cry of the poor of the time of Jesus and of all times.
• Luke 16, 19-21: The situation of the rich man and the poor man. The two extremes of society. On the one side, aggressive richness, on the other the poor man without resources, without rights, covered with wounds, without anybody to accept him, to receive him, except the dogs which came to lick his wounds. What separates both of them is the closed door of the house of the rich man. On the part of the rich man, there is no acceptance nor pity concerning the problem of the poor man at his door. But the poor man has a name and the rich man does not. That is, the poor man has his name written in the book of life, not the rich one. The poor man’s name is Lazarus. It means God helps. And through the poor man, God helps the rich man who could have a name in the book of life. But the rich man does not accept to be helped by the poor man, because he keeps his door closed. This beginning of the parable which describes the situation, is a faithful mirror of what was happening during the time of Jesus and the time of Luke. It is the mirror of everything which is happening today in the world!
• Luke 16, 22: The change which reveals the hidden truth. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels into Abraham’s embrace. The rich man also died and was buried. In the parable the poor man dies before the rich one. This is an advertisement for the rich. Up to the time when the poor man is alive and is at the door, there is still the possibility of salvation for the rich man. But after the poor man dies, the only instrument of salvation for the rich man also dies. Now, the poor man is in Abraham’s embrace. The embrace of Abraham is the source of life, from where the People of God is born, Lazarus, the poor man, forms part of the People of Abraham, from which he was excluded, when he was before the door of the rich man. The rich man who believes that he is a son of Abraham does not go toward the embrace of Abraham! The introduction of the parable ends here. Now its significance begins to be revealed, through the three conversations between the rich man and Father Abraham.
• Luke 16, 23-26: The first conversation. In the parable, Jesus opens a window on the other side of life, the side of God. It is not a question of Heaven. It is a question of life which only faith generates and which the rich man who has no faith cannot perceive. It is only in the light of death that the ideology of the empire disintegrates and appears for him what the true value of life is. On the part of God, without the deceiving propaganda of the ideology, things change. The rich man sees Lazarus in the embrace of Abraham and asks to be helped in his suffering. The rich man discovers that Lazarus is his only possible benefactor. But now, it is too late! The rich man without a name is pious, because he recognizes Abraham and calls him Father Abraham responds and calls him son. In reality this word of Abraham is addressed to all the rich who are alive. In so far as they are alive, they have the possibility to become sons and daughters of Abraham, if they know how to open the door to Lazarus, the poor man, the only one who in God’s name can help them. Salvation for the rich man does not consist in Lazarus giving him a drop of fresh water to refresh his tongue, but rather, that he, the rich man, open the closed door to the poor man so as fill the great abyss that exists.
• Luke 16, 27-29: The second conversation. The rich man insists: “Then, Father, I beg you to send Lazarus to my father’s house, because I have five brothers!” The rich man does not want his brothers to end in the same place of suffering. Lazarus, the poor man, is the only true intermediary between God and the rich. He is the only one, because it is only to the poor that the rich have to return what they had and, thus, re-establish the justice which has been damaged! The rich man is worried for his brothers, but was never concerned about the poor! Abraham’s response is clear: “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them!” They have the Bible! The rich man had the Bible. He knew it by heart. But he was never aware of the fact that the Bible had something to do with the poor. The key which the rich man has in order to be able to understand the Bible is the poor man sitting at his door!
• Luke 16, 30-31: The third conversation. “No, Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent!” The rich man recognizes that he is wrong, he has committed an error, because he speaks of repenting, something which he never heard during his life. He wants a miracle, a resurrection! But this type of resurrection does not exist. The only resurrection is that of Jesus. Jesus, risen from the dead comes to us in the person of the poor, of those who have no rights, of those who have no land, of those who have no food, of those who have no house, of those who have no health. In his final response, Abraham is clear and convincing, forceful: “If they will not listen either to Moses or to the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead!” The conversation ends this way! This is the end of the parable!
• The key to understand the sense of the Bible is the poor Lazarus, sitting before the door! God presents himself in the person of the poor, sitting at our door, to help us cover the enormous abyss which the rich have created. Lazarus is also Jesus, the poor and servant Messiah, who was not accepted, but whose death changed all things radically. And everything changes in the light of the death of the poor. The place of torment, of torture is the situation of the person without God. Even if the rich man thinks that he has religion and faith, in fact, he is not with God because he does not open the door to the poor, as Zacchaeus did. (Lk 19, 1-10).
Tags: Blessed are they who hope in the Lord, Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, covered with sores, Jer 17:5-10, Lazarus, like a tree planted beside the waters, Lk 16:19-31, March 16 2017, Prayer and Meditation, Psalm 1, serve others, service to others