March 16, 2017: Thursday of the Second Week of Lent
Scripture of Rich Man and Lazarus:
“The rich man also died and was buried . . . ” (Luke 16: 22)
Lent warns us again and again that “later” may be too late. The story of the rich man and the poor beggar Lazarus repeats the warning.
The rich man was not a bad person, just a wealthy one inattentive to a neighbor’s need. Given time, he might eventually have noticed the daily suppliant at his door. Maybe one of the dogs would have snarled at him and caught his attention. He was given time, a lifetime, but it wasn’t enough. And suddenly, it was too late. After death, he realizes the opportunity he has lost, or rather thrown away on his own daily feasts, so he begs Abraham to send Lazarus back from the dead to warn his brothers. Too late, too late, says Abraham, too many warnings already unheeded, even when given by Moses and the prophets. The rich man apparently does love his brothers and pleads that Lazarus, raised from the dead, should startle them enough to get their minds onto essentials. But no, it is already too late. The habit of the deaf ear has grown too strong to break. We can hardly miss the irony of that ending told by Jesus, who will in fact return from the dead and, all too often, still go unheard by those busy about more pressing (i.e., selfish) business.
This story bothers me. I do “later” very well. Every year, I have heard St. Paul’s urgent Ash Wednesday warning: “behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor 6: 2). And every year, I do diligently make serious Lenten efforts, but every year, come Easter, I let go of the season’s unfinished business, the places in the heart as yet unconvinced and unconverted, sing my alleluias, and go on about life as usual—a bit reformed, I hope, but still too often ignoring the beggars on my doorstep, whatever form they take, because I’m busy meeting some other deadline than the Lord’s, until next Lent. The rich man always stops me in my tracks for a moment, though. What if there is no “next Lent”? Or what if I have grown too deaf to hear its warning when it comes?
List three good works you have been putting off, three “beggars at your door.” What stops you from attending to them now?
By Genevieve Glen, "Not by bread alone"