Thursday in the Second Week of Lent

March 4, 2021

Jeremiah 17:5–10 | Luke 16:19–31 | Psalm 1

I hope you all had a chance to read the lesson from the Gospel of Luke appointed for today. It is one in a string of parables Jesus shared with his disciples and those who followed him from town to town. Although they were listening to his words, they did not always understand their meaning. I don’t know about you, but I often find that true about myself; I don’t always know where Jesus is going with his parables as they seem like simple stories but there is often so much packed within them. This particular parable is unique in a couple of ways; it is told only in Luke and it is the only one to name a character, Lazarus, who was not the rich man but the poor beggar in the story. As always, Jesus’ story has a number of points to make providing timeless lessons to be learned by all of us if we are willing to hear them.

I’d like to focus on one point in particular. The rich man and his family lived in luxury and paid no attention to those on their doorstep who were in need. The rich man even knew Lazarus by name but during his life, he treated Lazarus as a non-person – someone whom he didn’t even see, or if he did, someone he cared nothing about. However, when he died and found himself in Hades, he saw Lazarus in paradise and thought that Lazarus should be made to serve him. In spite of the fact that he had ignored the horrid conditions in which Lazarus existed in life, conditions that he could have changed, he expected Lazarus to drop everything and to leave heaven to do his bidding because just as in life, his needs were all he cared about. Three cheers for Father Abraham who told him that he and his family were doomed because they chose not to listen to the lessons of Moses and the prophets. Clearly they were not willing to love their neighbors as themselves.

This time of pandemic has brought some new learnings to all of us. During this past year we have learned to go without things that have been part of our normal lives and we have learned to make do with what we have. During our struggles we have often been focused on ourselves and our families and so we might not have noticed that we have neighbors who always live without those things we take for granted and who have been brought by this pandemic to the very edge of existence. 

As part of our Lenten journey, perhaps we can take the time to look around to see how others are doing. Loving our neighbors as ourselves does not require super-human effort. The invitation, I think, is to open our eyes and truly see those in need around us and find ways to make their lives a little bit better. None of us is asked to end poverty or hunger in our midst all by ourselves. But we are invited to see that it does exist and to act compassionately to help make life better for someone who is in need. A small sacrifice on our part can provide not only tangible help but also give hope to someone who needs to know that there are neighbors who care. It all starts with an act of love – yours and mine – so that together we can make a difference.

Betsy Fornal