Readings: Jeremiah 17:5-10, Ps. 1:1-4, 6. Luke 16:19-31

“Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his arm, whose heart turns away from the Lord.” (Jeremiah 17:5)

In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus gave the parable of Lazarus (a Hebrew word meaning ‘God has helped’) and the Rich Man. This story is about those who place their trust in God as against those who do not. Ironically, Lazarus, whom God helped, lacked the necessities of life while the rich man lived affluently. Although the scriptures teach that “the blessing of the Lord makes one rich and adds no sorrow” (Prov. 10:22), Lazarus’ case was different. This is where our lessons begin today:

1. Being Poor Is Not a Curse: For many adherents of the Gospel of prosperity, it is impossible to be a Bible-believing, God-fearing, Church-going, tithing and prayerful Christian and still be poor. The parable of Lazarus teaches us that one could be ‘helped by God’ and still live in abject poverty. With this parable, Jesus teaches that being poor despite your religiosity does not mean God has failed or that He is powerless. Does it surprise you that Lazarus, who lived in abject poverty (on earth), was sitting at the feet of Abraham in heaven? The same Abraham that was the world’s richest man during his life?

Jeremiah declares: “Blessed is the man trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water that sends out its roots by the stream and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green.” Even today’s responsorial psalm further amplifies this reality. Even in his condition, God blessed Lazarus, but this blessing was not wealth. What would you prefer if asked to choose between wealth and eternal life?

2. Whether Rich or Poor, We Shall Be Judged for our Deeds: In today’s reading, God speaks: “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately corrupt; who can understand it? I, the Lord, search the mind and try the heart to give to every man according to his ways and the fruit of his doings.” (Jeremiah 17:9-10). The rich man did not go to hell because he was rich; neither did Lazarus enter heaven solely based on his poverty. Just as there are many wealthy people in heaven, there are many who died wretched and are in hell. I may be convinced of my poverty, but if my heart is corrupt and evil (turned away from God), I cannot enter heaven. As Jeremiah puts it: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his arm, whose heart turns away from the Lord.” (Jeremiah 17:5).

3. In His Riches, Man Lacks Wisdom (Psalm 49:13, 20): Riches can bring out a person’s best or worst. Jesus did not tell us exactly why the rich man went to hell. However, in another parable, Jesus tells of a rich man whose farm yielded an abundant harvest. The man’s plan had no consideration for the poor. He wanted to pull down his barns (waste what he had already gathered) and build new ones. Jesus described the man as a fool because he was not rich toward God.” (Cf. Luke 12:18-21). The rich man refused to help Lazarus but allowed his dogs to feast on his sores. Is this not wickedness? In Matthew 25:31-40, Jesus told us that on the last day, we would be judged based on our kindness to the least (poorest, weakest, or most insignificant) people around us. When you give food, water, shelter, etc., to the poor, you do it for Jesus; you store treasures for yourself in heaven. (Cf. Luke 12:33). Are my riches obstructing my path to heaven?

4. Hell is Real; Repent Today: The rich man begged Abraham to send Lazarus to his brothers to warn them from coming to that place of torment, but Abraham said such was impossible. The beauty of this parable is that we are privileged to hear it while we are still alive. We are the rich man’s brothers. Lazarus (in Jesus Christ) has risen from the dead to warn us. What more do we need to repent?

Let us pray: Almighty, ever-living God, help me to listen to Lazarus and act accordingly. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.

Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (Thursday of the 2nd week of Lent. Bible Study: Jeremiah 17:5-10, Ps. 1:1-4,6. Luke 16:19-31).

@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu