Meditation for the Day

Thursday, March 21

During This Season of Lent, May Each of Us Always Be Open to New Possibilities, to New Ways in Which We Can Grow in Our Personal Relationship with God.

Pope St. John Paul II, in a homily he gave in 1979 to some 80,000 people who were gathered for Mass at Yankee Stadium in New York City, said, “…the Lazarus of the twentieth century stands at our doors.”

The suffering and the impoverished we see at times in the commercials advertised in our newspapers or on television are no different than the tormented and suffering Lazarus we read about in today’s Gospel.

Many of them, especially those in underdeveloped countries, live their lives each day from hour to hour. In the shadows of their own despair, especially if they feel forgotten or unloved, it becomes difficult for them to feel any sense of hope or see any “light at the end of the tunnel.”

For each of them, male or female, young or old, it becomes difficult to live a life with any sense of optimism, especially when those individuals or governments who have the financial or physical means fail to reach out a helping hand with the excesses which they do not need, especially when they blatantly fail or refuse to recognize the suffering Christ in the world around them.

In today’s Scripture Readings, we are faced with some very sobering words which deal with the consequences of living a life which removes God from our midst. And we hear our Lord speaking to us through His prophet Jeremiah in our First Reading, “Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh, whose heart turns away from the LORD.”

And we hear in our Gospel how this rich man in Jesus’ parable was cursed, enduring the torments of Hell, “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.”

In John Paul’s homily, he posed a question to his listeners, “Was the rich man condemned because he had riches, because he abounded in earthly possessions, because he ‘dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day’?

“No, I would say that it was not for this reason. The rich man was condemned because he did not pay attention to the other man. Because he failed to take notice of Lazarus, the person who sat at his door and who longed to eat the scraps from his table.”

Nowhere in the Gospel do we find Christ condemning the mere possession of earthly goods, as such. Instead, sometimes in very harsh words, he speaks against those who use their possessions in selfish ways, without paying attention to the needs of those who are less fortunate.

The Sermon on the Mount begins with the words: “Blessed are the poor in spirit…” And, at the end of the account of the Last Judgment, as found in Saint Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus speaks the words that we all know so well:

“For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.”

For the many who are afflicted with so many trials and misfortunes in today’s world, what sustains them in the midst of their sufferings? As a Christian people, what sustains us in the various trials we sometimes endure in our daily struggle through this vale of tears?

In Jeremiah, we hear the words, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose hope is the LORD.” Our First Reading is telling us that whoever relies on God will not be disappointed or be in want when everything around them dries up or disappears. God will not only be their consolation, but their inexhaustible source of joy as well.

Jesus’ parable about the afflictions of the poor man, Lazarus, brings home a similar point. In this story, Jesus paints a dramatic scene of contrasts – poverty and riches, Heaven and Hell, compassion and indifference, inclusion and exclusion.

We also see an abrupt and dramatic reversal of fortune – the afflicted Lazarus, who suffered horribly in this life, is reclining at the bosom of Abraham, a symbol of Heaven, a symbol of eternal rest.

Whereas, for the rich man who ignored Lazarus while he lived – turning a deaf ear and a blind eye to his needs – he found his own fortunes reversed at the end of his life. In God’s Divine Justice, those who hold on possessively to what they have, lose it all in the end, while those who share generously receive back many times more than what they gave away.

The parable does not allow us to see into the heart of Lazarus, but we are given a picture of the heart of the rich man. In all his wealth and in his self-absorption with greed, the rich man could not see beyond his own material wealth and possessions. He not only had everything he needed, he selfishly spent all he had on himself. He was too absorbed in what he possessed to notice the needs of those around him, even to notice Lazarus at the foot of his own door.

Sadly, he lost sight of God and the treasure of Heaven, because he was preoccupied with seeking happiness in material belongings; he served wealth rather than God. In the end, the rich man became a beggar, and the beggar became rich in the eternal blessings which awaited him.

During this season of Lent as we reflect upon our own personal relationship with God, may each of us always be open to new possibilities, to new ways in which we can grow in our relationship of love with the God who has given us every good gift.

In this pilgrimage of faith which you and I are making during these forty days in the desert, in which we are realizing our own personal longing for God, may He give to you and me a generous heart, truly caring for the needs of our brothers and sisters, freely sharing with others the spiritual and material treasures our God has given to each of us – always remembering the words our Savior once gave us –

“Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me…Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”

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Please Comment, Like and Share, and Suggest to your Facebook friends – to spread the message of God’s Merciful Love.

Por favor Comente, Le Gusta y Comparta, y Sugiera a tus amigos en Facebook – en difundir el mensaje del Misericordioso Amor de Dios.

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Scripture for the Day

  • “Thus says the LORD: Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh, whose heart turns away from the LORD. He is like a barren bush in the desert that enjoys no change of season, but stands in a lava waste, a salt and empty earth.” (Jeremiah 17:5-6)
  • “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.’” (Luke 16:24)
  • “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’” (Matthew 25:41-43)
  • “No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matthew 6:24)
  • “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in company with scoffers. Rather, the law of the LORD is his joy; and on his law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:1-2)
  • “Those who give to the poor have no lack, but those who avert their eyes, many curses.” (Proverbs 28:27)
  • “Whoever cares for the poor lends to the LORD, who will pay back the sum in full.” (Proverbs 19:17)
  • “Blessed are those who trust in the LORD; the LORD will be their trust.” (Jeremiah 17:7)
  • “He began to teach them, saying: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.’” (Matthew 5:2-6)
  • “Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me…Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’” (Matthew 25:34-36, 40b)

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Prayer for the Day

“Keep me, O God, from pettiness;

let me be large in thought, in word, in deed.

Let me be done with fault-finding and self-seeking.

May I put away all pretense and meet everyone

face-to-face without self-pity and without prejudice.

“May I never be hasty in judgment and always generous.

Let me take time for all things.

Make me grow calm, serene and gentle.

Teach me to put into action my better impulses,

straightforward and unafraid.

“Lord, grant that I may fully realize

it is the little things in life that create differences

and that, in the big things of life, we are all truly one in You.

And, O Lord God, let me not forget to be generous with love!

This I ask in Jesus’ Most Holy Name. Amen.”

Anonymous

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Please Note: Today’s image for this post is a life-size statue of the “Homeless Jesus” outside of Catholic Charities in Washington, D.C.

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