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Reflection for March 8, 2007

"As You Sow, So Shall You Reap"

Today's Mass Readings

The United States, is in many ways a place of great excesses, especially when we compare ourselves to our brothers and sisters in the rest of the world. Today’s powerful gospel reading has Jesus telling a parable regarding a nameless rich man who lived at the cost of others’ lives, particularly the life of a poor and afflicted man named Lazarus. When it was too late – that is, when the rich man had died – he realized the error of his ways.
The first reading, from Jeremiah, presents another way to look at the lives of these two men. The rich man trusted in human beings and sought the strength of flesh. Lazarus, who had nothing, trusted in God. The Jeremiah reading ends with this: “I, the LORD, alone probe the mind and test the heart, To reward everyone according to his ways, according to the merit of his deeds.” The gospel parable is an example of this; both the rich man and Lazarus are rewarded according to their ways. In this sense, today’s readings remind us of the importance of how we live our lives. We must strive to trust in God and not in our possessions, to be kind to the poor and afflicted rather than self-interested.
Something else is going on here, too, as indicated by the end of Jesus’ parable. The rich man begs for Lazarus to be sent to his brothers, but father Abraham notes that if they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be persuaded by someone being raised from the dead. This last line foreshadows Jesus’ own death and resurrection. Jesus is telling the Pharisees that many who do not believe his message during his life, will still not believe his message when he is risen from the dead.

Lent, in many ways, is a passion and crucifixion story. We sacrifice and repent for our failing to live holy lives. And yet Lent also is a resurrection story. Even as we fast and pray, we know the end of this story inasmuch as Jesus will rise from the dead on Easter. Let us live this season of Lent in a spirit of hope and confidence in our saving God. Moreover, let our lives be a testament to the message of God’s love for all, rich and poor.