Today’s Gospel is the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Lk 16:19-31). As I read and reflected upon it, several thoughts came to my mind. The rich man didn’t treat Lazarus as a person. To the rich man, Lazarus was simply part of the “landscape.” (Meditation from Regnum Christi, 21 March). His pride prevented him from entering an inch into Lazarus’ world. He was content to allow him to grovel for any sustenance he could find. As I read on, I found myself thinking, “Yep, you got just what you deserved. Your pride was the hamartia that brought your demise and even in hell you still looked down your nose at Lazarus.”
Then, no sooner had I passed judgment on the “rich man”, than I recalled the shame of having been in his shoes myself just two weeks ago.
It was the first Friday of Lent. I had skipped breakfast that morning before going to nine o’clock mass because it was a day of fasting and abstinence and I wanted to eat a late breakfast and then skip lunch. After mass I stopped by a fast food restaurant and purchased a bacon, egg and cheese biscuit (sans bacon) to go. I had a coupon that let me buy the sandwich and still have a few pennies more than I needed to get a haircut, which was my next planned stop after I woofed down the sandwich. As I walked out of the restaurant towards my truck a young, disheveled man, probably in his twenties, approached me from my left. I heard him say, “Hey, dude, you got a couple bucks? I’m homeless.”
Without hardly looking up, my response was quick, “Nope, not today.” The young man didn’t say anything else and just walked on by. I got in my truck and started it up and that’s when it hit me: I had just lied to that guy. Then, in quick succession, all the other available options I could have chosen popped into my mind. I could have stopped and offered my sandwich to him. I could have kept my fifteen dollars I needed for my haircut but offered to buy his breakfast with my credit card. I could have at least asked him about his situation and then made an informed decision whether to help him or not. Instead, I treated him as though he wasn’t there. I hadn’t entered an inch into his world. He was just part of the “landscape”.
My next response was to give thanks to God for the grace to realize the error of my way, and I knew I had to try and make it right. I backed out of my parking spot and thought I would find him and make amends. But, I had to drive around the restaurant and by the time I got back to the street he was nowhere in sight. I drove down the block but never saw him again.
I ate my sandwich but it wasn’t very satisfying. And, I thought, I had some good fodder to take to reconciliation the next afternoon.
In today’s first Scripture reading we hear, “I, the Lord, explore the mind and test the heart, giving to all according to their ways, according to the fruit of their deeds.” (Jer 17:10) I realize that He tested my heart that Friday morning, and in the split second of that moment of choice, my heart showed what it was really made of, and it was found lacking a good measure of humility.
I may be wrong, but I don’t think I’m much different than most folks who try to be charitable. My tithing includes indirect charity to others through donations of money and goods to organizations that help people in need. That all sounds well and good, and is truly necessary, but is it much different than the rich man throwing a few scraps of food out the door so that Lazarus might scavenge them before the dogs could get them?
Like many folks, I try, also, to be kind and charitable by helping others directly, one-on-one, through organized mission work. In a way, this forces me to step at least a few feet into another’s world, and I’ve found those times to be life changing experiences. This episode, however, shows me that I still have a lot of work to do to be the rich soil that embraces the seed (Word of God) with a generous and good heart, and bear fruit through perseverance (Lk 8:15).
My meditation today leaves me with this thought: God doesn’t want me to be like most folks. No, He wants me to be like Him, to love others with a good and generous heart, and, with the help of His grace, persevere and bear fruit for His Kingdom.
How about you? Are you going to be like most folks?
“Heavenly Father, thank You for the grace to realize my need for continued growth in the virtue of humility; and for opening my heart to the Holy Spirit to receive Your Word today. Lord, help me today to recognize the opportunities where I may be able to make a difference in the lives of others, and, at the moment of choice, choose to act accordingly. Lord, I love You and I want to bring others to You. I don’t want to find myself in purgatory wishing I had worked harder to save more souls. Amen.”
(Are You a Rich Man or Rich Soil? was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)
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