Wealth, Poverty, and Freedom
In today’s story of the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus highlights the importance of reaching out to those in special need — the truly poor. Contrast this to Jesus’ message in the Beatitudes where He states that the poor in spirit person is “blessed”. Hmnnn…we have a paradox!
The point is that Jesus wants us to be free. Freedom is the key to the question of both poverty and wealth. If we are attached to material things, we can easily lose our freedom…like the rich man in today’s Gospel selection, wearing fine clothes and enjoying splendid meals. And yet, apparently, he was so wrapped up in his pleasures that he had little time for God or his fellow human beings. He had lost his freedom because of his attachment to wealth and the pleasures of wealth.
Being poor can be a problem as well. We need a share of God’s material gifts to have the leisure of time and mind to worship God and be concerned about others. If a person has to spend his every moment trying to acquire the basic necessities of survival and has to wonder about his next meal, he then can scarcely turn his attention to either God or others. That person has lost their freedom because of a poverty which is destitution.
The extremes of wealth or poverty are most likely beyond any of us who frequent this web site. Yet, how free are we?? Are we satisfied with moderation in our lives — or deep in our hearts are we constantly yearning for more and more? What do we usually pray for? And, how generous and charitable are we in helping others? Perhaps selfishness has a grip on us as well, limiting our freedom…
This Lent, let’s seek renewal in our prayer and our generosity, moving beyond selfish motivation to reaching out to the truly needy in our lives…be they the beggars at our doors or on our telephones, or the family member or co-worker who needs a listening ear and an encouraging word.
“Test me, O God … guide me along the everlasting way.”
Fr. John Schork, C.P. is the Vocation Director for Holy Cross Province. He lives at St. Vincent Strambi Community in Chicago, Illinois.