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There was a rich man. . .

Lenten meditations on justice and peace

by Robert Waldrop

Thursday, March 12

Readings: Jeremiah 17:5-10, Psalm 1, Luke 16:19-31

There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments. . . and lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores. . . barren bush in the desert. . . tree planted beside the waters . . . dogs even used to come and lick his sores-- these are vivid pictures of human reality.

The rich man -- traditionally identified as "Dives" -- put his trust in man, specifically, his own self. Lazarus had nobody but God and the dogs (curious palindrome there). Yet, who turned out to be the fertile tree by the water, and who the barren bush in an obviously hot spot?

Neither God, nor the Church, are kidding when we encounter these readings. They weren't making little jokes to be laughed about in polite company. They are warning us against attachment to and trust in material security. This is not a minor theme in Holy Scripture, or in the teachings of the Church. And who can disagree? But who can also fully live up to this?

So we begin where we are at, no point in starting at any other place.

This, in fact, is kind of the point of the Lenten disciplines of fasting, abstinence, and alms giving. We need to give a portion of our money away more than we need to keep all of it. That portion is not mysterious, it's ten percent. Many can give more and some give even higher percentages of their income. Food is a pressing daily need (and sometimes a pressing daily want). By avoiding certain foods, and by not eating for periods of time, we practice our "detachment" from material security. By voluntarily experiencing hunger we show our solidarity with those for whom hunger is a daily reality. And often, if you practice something long enough, you get good at it (at least, better). This is a Clue.

Put your trust in material security, ignore the poor man Lazarus at your front door with the dogs licking at his sores, and you end up a brittle old bush in a dry rocky volcanic desert waste. Trust in God, open your heart and your pocketbook to the poor, and your life becomes fruitful, generative, and redemptive. Give lots of money for the relief of the poor during this Lenten season. Give more than you think you "ought" to give. The poor need it more than you do.

News byte from the National Catholic Bishops Conference: donations by US Catholics to Operation Rice Bowl during last year's Lent totaled about twenty-five cents per Catholic.

Prayer intentions today:

+ For all those whose income exceeds their needs, that they will be inspired to give more money to the poor during this Lenten season.

+ For all the poor Lazaruses, laying at the doors of rich people, dogs licking their sores.

Praxis today:

+ Give some money for the relief of the poor today -- look for the Lazarus at your door and do something for him or her.

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