Thursday of the Second Week of Lent | Readings: Jeremiah 17:5–10; Luke 16:19–31
I must admit that I do not find any clear connection between the two readings for this day, and I do not especially like the first one. (There, I hope that gives some of you permission not to like some Scriptures. Frankly, I think many of them are regressive and small-minded.) This one is far too dualistic about the difference between trusting humans and trusting God. For the most part, I think we probably do both trusts about the same way. How you do anything is how you do everything.
But let’s look at this intriguing Gospel, which is clearly a piece of Hebrew folklore that made its way into Luke’s account and nowhere else. It has all the earmarks of old-time storytelling: a nameless rich man and a poor man with a beloved name like Lazarus, with dogs licking at his sores, “the bosom of Abraham” for heaven, and the pagan “Hades” for hell, then Abraham shouting answers across “the huge abyss that no one can cross.”
This is a classic “reversal theme” which is so common in world literature and Scripture. The main sin of the rich man seems to be that he does not even notice the problem or the other man. He is blind and unaware of the pain of the world, while he eats “magnificently every day.”
And the response of Abraham to him is this: “If you did not get it on that side of the abyss of life and death, why would you get it on this side?” There is presented a clear continuity between this world and the next. Or as some of our saints have said, “No one is going to be surprised in eternity!” We will all receive exactly what our lives say we really want and desire: Love is always torment for the hateful, and final torment is impossible for the loving.
“If someone would go to them from the dead and tell them about this place of torment, they would repent,’ said the rich man. ‘No,’ said Abraham, ‘if they have not listened to Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced by any voice from the dead either.’” —Luke 16:30–31
“God of life and death, help me to choose life now, help me to recognize love now, help me to see the poor in our world who long to eat the scraps that fall from our tables.”