The Gospel according to Luke (16:19-31)
“There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores. When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.’ Abraham replied, ‘My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented. Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours.’ He said, ‘Then I beg you, father, send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment.’ But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.’ He said, ‘Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ Then Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.’”
So, how is your lent going? Do you find yourself struggling with your intentions to change or augment something, deny yourself of the things in life that are keeping you from spiritual growth. Or, maybe, you are flourishing and making changes according to a well thought out and implemented plan to change. My guess is most of us are experiencing the former not the latter. And if you are, you are not alone.
A priest once shared something that I think will help us keep a good perspective. He said he had two men who were both confessing the sin of adultery. One would come in every week, like clockwork, and ask for forgiveness because he had been unfaithful to his wife. This went on for weeks, months, indefinitely. The priest decided to admonish the man for his apparent lack of contrition. He told him it appeared he had no intention of changing his ways and so to reconsider returning to the confessional if he was not sincere in his desire to repent. A second man had confessed the same sin on a somewhat regular basis but then did not return for many months. Then, one day, distraught and regretful, he comes in and laments as he confesses infidelity. The priest counseled the man and after some discussion regarding his battle with his sin could tell he was truly sorry. The second man not only wanted to change but was trying to avoid this sin.
Today’s gospel is a sobering reminder that it is too easy to get stuck in a pattern of sinful behavior that can lead us so far away from salvation. In our lifetime we are given endless opportunities to change our sinful tendencies. It is up to us to cooperate with the grace of God, and with sincere and repentant hearts, endeavor to change, mostly, a little at a time. But with much prayer, God’s mercy, and his infinite love we can stay the course all the way home into the loving arms of Our Father.
Action of the day: Let us pray for each other as we try to move, ever so slightly, toward the light and love of Christ. Let us lift each other up so that whatever obstacles are keeping us from a fruitful Lenten journey may be removed. We need each other now more than ever. No one walks in the desert alone. We are one body in Christ. May God have mercy on us. Amen.