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The Poor You Always Have
Thursday of the Second Week of Lent
“There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores. When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.’ Abraham replied, ‘My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented. Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours.’ He said, ‘Then I beg you, father, send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment.’ But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.’ He said, ‘Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ Then Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.’”
Opening Prayer: Lord God, I come before you today open to change. I ask you to turn my mind, my emotions, and my will toward you as I enter these few moments of prayer and strive to hear your voice.
- Wealth/Duty: “There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day.” In this parable, Jesus does not condemn wealth, per se, but reminds all of us that the wealthy have a serious moral obligation to help the poor. For generations, Catholic social teaching has emphasized this responsibility: “…Remember the aphorism of the Fathers, ‘Feed the man dying of hunger, because if you have not fed him, you have killed him…” (Gaudium et Spes, no. 69). “You are not making a gift of what is yours to the poor man, but you are giving him back what is his” (Populorum Progressio). “Love for others, and in the first place love for the poor, in whom the Church sees Christ himself, is made concrete in the promotion of justice” (Centesimus Annus). Let us examine our almsgiving this Lent in light of 1 John 3:17-18: “If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him? Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.”
- Warn My Brothers: The rich man cared little for Lazarus but he apparently loved his five brothers enough to ask that they be warned, “lest they too come to this place of torment.” Abraham replied that Moses and the prophets were enough warning. In fact, Abraham added, “If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.”—which is precisely what Jesus did in order to save us all. How many of us go about our day-to-day duties, forgetful of the poor, distracted, worried, or simply refusing to acknowledge the prophets of our time–saints, good priests, holy friends–who remind us daily that Jesus Christ came back from the dead to save us from our sins?
- Christ Became Poor for Us: “For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that for your sake he became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). Christ became poor so that we might be wealthy—not one day in heaven, but right here, right now. He bestowed on us a royal identity through our Baptism. He feeds us with bread from heaven to sustain us on our journey. He forgives our sins so that we can begin over and over. He also showers us with spiritual wealth by the love he sends us through others. Our hearts are full of gratitude, but are we willing to become poor for others in imitation of Our Lord? To give without counting costs? To serve the outcast? To defend the weak?
Conversing with Christ: Lord, please open my eyes and soften my heart so that I don’t trip over the poor you have placed in my path. This Lent, help me to reach out beyond my comfort zone to contribute, feed, serve, and pray for the souls that I meet.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will, in solidarity with the poor, abstain from my favorite food.
For Further Reflection: Mother Teresa of Calcutta was a great servant of the poor. Perhaps read the book Come Be My Light, or watch one of her speeches on YouTube if time is short.
written by Maribeth Harper