FIRST READING (Jeremiah 17:5-10)
Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his arm, whose heart turns away from the Lord. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it? “I the Lord search the mind and try the heart, to give to every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.”
GOSPEL (Luke 16:19-31)
Jesus said to the Pharisees: “There was a rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Laz’arus, full of sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table; moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
“The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried; and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far off and Laz’arus in his bosom. And he called out, `Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Laz’arus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame.’
“But Abraham said, `Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Laz’arus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’
“And he said, `Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’
“But Abraham said, `They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ “And he said, `No, father Abraham; but if some one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’
“He said to him, `If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead.’”
What sustains us in times of difficulty? - Word of Life Community
A Witness from Hell - Presentation Ministries
Fr Gregory Jensen writes: At any given moment of my life I am either Lazarus, sitting in need at my neighbour’s door, or the rich man who ignores my needy neighbour. Mark my words carefully: I am not Lazarus, I am not the rich man. Rather I am both of them and so I vacillate between acknowledging my need and the illusion of my own abundance. In the parable, Jesus who sees more clearly then I do, is able to make these men distinct from one another. And by that very clarity he reveals me to myself as both men.
FURTHERMORE . . .
At the core of human nature is a fundamental dis-ease, a nagging loneliness, an incessant desire for more. St Augustine summed it up beautifully when he said: “You have made us for yourself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you”. The soul’s restless longing for love, for goodness, beauty, and truth, is due to humanity’s fundamental longing for God. That is how we are made, and that God-shaped lack can only be satisfied by God, and ultimately we will only find rest “in the bosom of Abraham”, in heaven.
As Jesus’ reference to the rich man’s costly “purple garments and fine linen” suggests, some people hope that wealth and ‘retail therapy’, drugs, drink, fancy holidays and the latest gadget, will alleviate the soul’s ache. Others turn to sexual gratification. Jeremiah’s reference to the one who “seeks his strength in flesh” suggests that some use sex and power as means to escape from the soul’s angst. None of these work, of course, and one is eventually left feeling like “a salt and empty earth”: empty, life-less and drained. For only God, who alone understands the human heart, can slake the soul’s thirst. The psalmist perceived this essential truth when he said: “O God, you are my God, for you I long; for you my soul is thirsting. My body pines for you like a dry, weary land without water” (Psalm 62:1-2).
Many of us may already know this, but nevertheless, we still repeatedly reach out for lesser goods, deluded into thinking that many of those will fill the God-shaped hole in our lives; but only living water, Goodness itself, can quench the thirsty, parched soul. At our Baptism, and again in Confirmation, Christ poured out his loving Spirit into our souls to quench and refresh us. Thus, we have been rooted in the living water of the Spirit who gives us strength to endure all things, as Lazarus did. When we feel restless and long for more, it is really more of God that we want and need: let us reach out, then, for the God who unfailingly desires us.
This Easter, many catechumens, having emerged from the barren desert of Lent and their lives, will be plunged into the waters of Baptism, and the rest of us will renew our baptismal vows. To prepare for that, let us recall how at our own Baptism we first placed our hope in God, becoming “like a tree planted beside the waters, that stretches out its roots to the stream”. Let us return to God, place our trust in Him, and ask the Holy Spirit to fill our lives and “water that which is dry” in our lives, so that we may be fruitful and savour the sweetness of eternal life.
O God, early in the morning I cry to you.
Help me to pray
And to concentrate my thoughts on you:
I cannot do this alone.
In me there is darkness,
But with you there is light;
I am lonely, but you do not leave me;
I am feeble in heart, but with you there is help;
I am restless, but with you there is peace.
In me there is bitterness, but with you there is patience;
I do not understand your ways,
But you know the way for me...
Restore me to liberty,
And enable me to live now
That I may answer before you and before me.
Lord, whatever this day may bring,
Your name be praised. Amen
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945)