Jesus said to the Pharisees, ‘There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.” But Abraham said, “Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.” He said, “Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house – for I have five brothers – that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.” Abraham replied, “They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.” He said, “No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” He said to him, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”’
Remember that during your lifetime you received your good things.
When I was growing up, and when I was displaying impatience that things were not moving faster, I remember my grandmother often saying to me: ‘Count your blessings.’ I still recall the impatience with which I greeted those words. ‘What blessings?’ went through my mind on many occasions. ‘Look! Can’t you see all the exciting and new things that I want and need right now! All the things that stop me feeling blessed?’ It is this impatience and greed that Jesus is addressing in his account of the rich man and Lazarus.
We live in an amazing world. We live in God’s wonderful creation. We live in a time when human intellect and reasoning have brought us a level of security and confidence that humanity has never known before. But … we are impatient and greedy for more. This, of course, is not unique to our generation. It has been the case throughout the entire existence of humanity.
The impatience and sense of longing is not entirely negative, of course. If human beings had not been impatient and ambitious to know more we would have stagnated thousands of years ago. But, it seems to be hard-wired into our DNA that we should not keep our thirst for more knowledge and possessions in perspective. Not only do we, as a species, want more but we, as individuals, have developed a ‘killer instinct’ which means that we are prepared to do whatever we perceive to be necessary to acquire exactly what we want, no matter what the cost to others.
Jesus’ account of the fate of the rich man and Lazarus, two people at opposite ends of the social spectrum, reminds us of his core message of love for all. It also gives us the opportunity to reorientate ourselves as we journey through Lent.
Human beings are impatient, greedy, ambitious and self-serving. Those are the temptations that confront us every day, the temptations that dog our wilderness times. Jesus is warning us that succumbing to those temptations can create such a gulf between us and God that there will come a time when that gulf can no longer be crossed.
Lent is the time when we need to reflect upon our relationship with the world in which we live. Lent is the time when we have a chance to show that we do understand Christ’s call to love and serve those who are less fortunate than ourselves. Lent is the time to say sorry and put things right. Let us pray for the strength to do just that … right now!
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