Wealth, Poverty, and Freedom
Today’s Gospel selection from St. Luke shares the familiar parable of the unnamed rich man and the poor man Lazarus. In it Jesus highlights how “things” can blind us and hinder our need to reach out to those closest to us who are in need — the poor.
Jesus has come to free us from our “slavery”. Freedom is the key to the reality of both poverty and wealth. If we are attached to material things, we easily forfeit our freedom…like the rich man in today’s Gospel with his fine clothes and sumptuous meals. Apparently, he was so wrapped up in his pleasures that he paid little attention to God or his fellow human beings…even poor Lazarus begging at his door! The rich man sacrificed his freedom because of his attachment to the pleasures of wealth – he had turned inward, selfish.
On the other hand, being poor limits a person’s freedom! We need a basic share of God’s material gifts to have the leisure of time and thought to worship God and also be concerned about fellow humans. If a person must spend their every energy trying to secure basic necessities – wondering about their next meal, or health or clothing or lodging – then they can hardly focus on God or others. That person has lost their freedom because of the destitution which is poverty.
The extremes of wealth or poverty are likely beyond any of us who frequent this web site. Yet, Lent 2021 asks us: how free are we?? Are we satisfied with moderation — or are we constantly yearning for more? For what do we usually prayer? How generous are we in reaching out to others in our thoughts, our prayer, our deeds? Perhaps selfishness has a grip on us as well and limits our freedom…
This Lent we seek renewal in our prayer and our generosity, helping us move beyond selfishness to reaching out to others…be they the poor beggar at our door or on our streets, or the family member or co-worker or stranger who needs a listening ear and an encouraging word. Together we can move beyond our COVID facial masks and social distancing…to sharing healing and life. Jesus and Lazarus call out to us today.
“O God, may we be steadfast in faith and effective in our work.”
Fr. John Schork, C.P. is the Vocation Director for Holy Cross Province. He lives at St. Vincent Strambi Community in Chicago, Illinois.