Jeremiah 17: 5 10
Luke 16: 19 – 31
Who is a happy person and who is not? The readings of today answer this question. Jeremiah says the happy are those who turn their hearts to the Lord and place their trust in him. They are like trees planted by the waterside, that become fruitful as they always have sufficient to drink, the reason being that they are connected to the source. The opposite is true of persons who do not place their trust in the Lord. they are like scrub planted in the wasteland, dry, parched and fruitless as they are disconnected from the source of water.
In the ultimate analysis, only the good Lord knows who is happy and who is not. While man can pretend to be happy or poor, God alone can search the hearts of people and reward them according to the merit of their good deeds. The communion antiphon says, “Happy are those who follow the Law of the Lord. The Law of the Lord is the law of love. Those who love are happy and so they are rich too in the eyes of God. For, richness consists in experiencing the blessings of the Lord. Such persons depend on the Lord; they walk in his ways; they listen to His words; they experience their smallness before the Lord, No one can grow if he does not accept his smallness.
The reward that God promises according to the merit of our good deeds is His care and the greatest security you can find; refuge in the name of God. He promises his intimacy, the warmth of the Father, and his embrace, full of tenderness and understanding.
Many of the stories of Jesus spare us descriptive detail. The tale of the rich man and Lazarus is unusually graphic. It is as if Jesus is trying to drive home a point. Retribution comes through flaming torture to the man who doesn’t share his food with poor Lazarus. Most of us would find little difficulty identifying with the moral of the story, if not the imagery, partly because we don’t see ourselves as rich. Because we tend to focus on what we don’t have it is so easy for us to lose sight of what we do have. This is more than a story about punishing the greedy.
Earlier in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus enounced the Pharisees for focusing on regulation while neglecting the principles of mercy and justice. He chastised them for not heeding the warnings of the prophets. His condemnations was acute because the Pharisees had become caught up in structures which upheld their privilege . It was their collective action which trapped the poor in their condition. After a series of altercations with the Pharisees they rejected Jesus’ teaching. In response to their resistance Jesus told the story of Lazarus itself and the poor and then ignores their cries from the other side.
It is a privilege to live in Canada where we give food away to people who might otherwise buy it, and regard it as bad economics to give it to those who might need it most. At times our system rewards the privileged and overlooks the embarrassing poor.
It is my responsibility to ensure that I do what I can for the poor. I also have another responsibility, to challenge the systems which corrupt us, though often unintentionally. We have to be aware that we can all become part of the problem. We can justify our privilege as though it is ours by merit alone, and castigate the poor as undeserving.
An advert next to the burger bar read: “You have the right to what you want, exactly when you want it. Because on the menu of life, you are ‘Today’s Special.’ I wondered what the man under the blanket would make of that?
God Bless you. Have a blessed day.