08 March. Thursday of Week 2 of Lent
Jer. 17:5ff. Blessed are those who trust in the Lord rather than in mere mortal power.
Luke 16:19ff. The contrasting fortunes of “Dives” and his poor neighbour, Lazarus.
In God We Trust
In the curse and blessing uttered by Jeremiah we meet a contrast between the barren, salty waste that will be faced by whose heart turns away from the Lord; and the blessings promised to those who trust in the Lord. “They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream.”
In Jesus’ parable the imagery changes from the desert wilderness in Jeremiah’s statement to the gates of a wealthy person’s villa. Inside is daily feasting, outside destitution. After Dives would wipe his mouth and hands with a piece of bread, he would toss the bread away. And the poor man, Lazarus, considered himself lucky to snatch these crumbs to stay alive. Lazarus managed barely to survive in his own kind of salty waste! The positions change in the next life, when the rich man suffers in Hades, while Lazarus has joy in the bosom of Abraham.
The message of Jeremiah sustained Jesus in prayer and continues to be our source of strength. While Jeremiah considered himself useless (15:10-21), he was in fact supporting the survival of his nation. Jeremiah was bearing fruit, and Lazarus too had his own dignity even while sitting and begging for crumbs at Dives’ door! Destitution in some cases can destroy one’s self-respect, but in other cases it can bring the person’s inner strength to the fore.
Only inner goodness survives into eternity, as the sinking of one’s tap root in God’s holy will allows a person to grow in spirit. We pray, therefore, not for short term gifts, nor for feelings and manifestations of holiness. True, we can ask God’s help in such matters, but basically we pray that the hopes of our heart and the strength of our bearing show us to be people who trust in the Lord.
First Reading: Jeremiah 17:5-10
Thus says the Lord: Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals and make mere flesh their strength, whose hearts turn away from the Lord. They shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when relief comes. They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit.
The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse – who can understand it? I the Lord test the mind and search the heart, to give to all according to their ways, according to the fruit of their doings.
Gospel: Luke 16:19-31
“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried.
In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ e said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house – for I have five brothers – that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'”