Thursday of the Second Week of Lent
This gospel story of Lazarus and the rich man is so familiar to us that we could be tempted to miss the message. Here are a few details from the reading that we might think about. First, notice that the rich man does not have a name while Lazarus does. Not having a name can mean many things – lack of influence, diminished power, no lasting legacy and on and on. But it might also mean that the rich man becomes a bit like "every man" – that is that most of us could possibly identify with the rich man. Then consider that the rich man is not described as cruel or mean. We do not know that he makes a conscious decision to allow Lazarus to go hungry. Perhaps his sin is a sin of omission. Maybe he is so consumed with his luxurious clothes and fine dining, he does not even see the suffering of Lazarus. It seems as though, the rich man is possibly what we consider a fairly good guy – after all, even in the depth of his suffering he thinks of his brothers.
When we consider these things, perhaps we will identify more with the story. Of course most of us would never consciously decide to allow someone to go hungry or suffer great indignities, and yet, while we know that many in our world die every day from hunger, many go without the medical care needed to save their lives, many live in squalor and many don’t even have clean water to drink, we take no action. In fact, most of us don’t want to even think about, let alone see the "Lazaruses" in our world. We continue to consume without thinking of what our consumption does to those who suffer in developing countries. In fact we avoid seeing or thinking about those who are in need in our own community, at our very doors.
During this Lenten Season, one of our resolutions might be to open our eyes and see those who suffer, and think about those who would welcome the very crumbs from our table. Perhaps then we will really understand Jesus’ message in today’s Gospel. And when we come to the end of our days, we can say to God that we heard the messages of the Gospel and changed our ways.
‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets,
neither will they be persuaded
if someone should rise from the dead.’"
Mary Lou Butler is a long-time friend and partner in ministry to the Passionists in California.