Thursday of the Second Week in Lent
(Jeremiah 17:5-10; Luke 16:19-31)
A recently published book about cyclist Lance Armstrong gives an anecdote about the fraudulent champion’s penchant for consumption. On Armstrong’s ten million dollar estate stands a giant oak tree with its branches extending toward his Spanish colonial mansion. The tree was not originally in its present, grandiose location but was transplanted there from another place on the property at the cost of $200,000! Although spending so much money on a vain endeavor is hardly Armstrong’s worse fault, it does contemporize the scene in today’s gospel of irresponsible opulence.
The rich man in Jesus’ parable sins neither by having great wealth nor even by having a disproportionate amount in comparison to others. No, his fault is neglecting the poor man at his door. Certainly he had enough resources to feed a hundred beggars, but he did not even notice the one that was in his midst. As Abraham indicates at the end of the story, the man is so blinded by his fortune that he cannot see in the poor the ones whom Jesus continually admonishes his hearers to assist.
Opportunities abound for us to help the poor. Catholic Charities, Catholic Relief Services, St. Vincent de Paul Society, and ten thousand other charitable organizations call on us for assistance. But certainly our efforts should go beyond almsgiving. We also need to rub shoulders with the poor, to hear their stories, and to share with them a vision of a society where all people live with human dignity.