Thursday 9 March 2023 2nd week of Lent
The Lord says this: ‘A curse on the man who puts his trust in man, who relies on things of flesh, whose heart turns from the Lord. He is like dry scrub in the wastelands: if good comes, he has no eyes for it, he settles in the parched places of the wilderness, a salt land, uninhabited.
‘A blessing on the man who puts his trust in the Lord, with the Lord for his hope. He is like a tree by the waterside that thrusts its roots to the stream: when the heat comes it feels no alarm, its foliage stays green; it has no worries in a year of drought, and never ceases to bear fruit.
‘The heart is more devious than any other thing, perverse too: who can pierce its secrets?
I, the Lord, search to the heart, I probe the loins, to give each man what his conduct and his actions deserve.’
Psalm 1:1-4,6 Happy the man who has placed his trust in the Lord.
Jesus said to the Pharisees: ‘There was a rich man who used to dress in purple and fine linen and feast magnificently every day. And at his gate there lay a poor man called Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to fill himself with the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even came and licked his sores. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried.
‘In his torment in Hades he looked up and saw Abraham a long way off with Lazarus in his bosom. So he cried out, “Father Abraham, pity 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.” “My son,” Abraham replied “remember that during your life good things came your way, just as bad things came the way of Lazarus. Now he is being comforted here while you are in agony. But that is not all: between us and you a great gulf has been fixed, to stop anyone, if he wanted to, crossing from our side to yours, and to stop any crossing from your side to ours.”
‘The rich man replied, “Father, I beg you then to send Lazarus to my father’s house, since I have five brothers, to give them warning so that they do not come to this place of torment too.” “They have Moses and the prophets,” said Abraham “let them listen to them.” “Ah no, father Abraham,” said the rich man “but if someone comes to them from the dead, they will repent.” Then Abraham said to him, “If they will not listen either to Moses or to the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead.”’
A blessing on the woman who puts her trust in the Lord, with the Lord for her hope. She is like a tree by the waterside that thrusts its roots to the stream: when the heat comes it feels no alarm, its foliage stays green; it has no worries in a year of drought, and never ceases to bear fruit.
What a striking image this is. It reminds me of many trees I have seen in different countries, particularly the willow tree, which is often seen on the edge of a lake or water course, with its roots, like giant twisted fingers plunging into the water reaching down into the depths to find the water’s goodness.
I then thought of the mosaics on the apse of Sant’Emerenziana. One of our nearby Churches. It has the crucified Christ standing with arms out to his side as if welcoming. Above him are images of Father and Spirit, and around him is all creatures of the earth, and the saints and angels. Beneath him are the peoples of the church – I like to think that it is all people of the world. All these creatures, all these people have their arms and hands and fingertips stretching out, reaching in the direction of the heart of Christ out from which flows a scarlet stream. Revelation 5:9 says, “by your blood you ransomed for God saints from every tribe and language and people and nation.”
The parable of the rich man, traditionally called Dives (literally “rich” or “the rich one” in Latin), who cries out to Abraham from Hades, “Ah no, but if someone comes to them from the dead, then they will listen”, prophetically narrates the divide created by those whose focus is their own comfort met by material priorities.
‘If someone should come from the dead’, says Dives, helps us liturgically to be mindful in this Lenten time of the blood that will shed in Holy Week, “for the life of the world”, but it also tells us that even Dives recognises that in the end it is the spiritual priorities we have that guide us to live our lives in fruitful ways, for, “She is like a tree by the waterside that thrusts its roots to the stream: when the heat comes it feels no alarm, its foliage stays green; it has no worries in a year of drought, and never ceases to bear fruit.“
Let us be this tree, that longs for the running water of Christ. Let us reach out our arms, our hands, our fingertips to the one we know has come from the dead and who shows us how to live our lives fruitfully.