Thursday of the Second Week in Lent
(Jeremiah 17:5-10; Luke 16:19-31)
“The line between good and evil,” the Russian novelist and humanitarian Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn remarked, “is not drawn between nations or parties, but through every human heart.” We can understand this truth as saying that every one of us has a heart partly corrupted so that it awaits renewal. Executing that renewal is our Lenten project. Similarly, every one has in part a heart palpitating with generosity. Experiencing the growth of that vibrant sector is a source of Easter rejoicing. In the first reading the prophet Jeremiah laments a heart so rotten that it is beyond remedy. In the gospel Jesus gives us an example – the rich man who ignores the beggar at his door.
Certainly the rich man is not punished just for having wealth. That would be like criticizing a healthy person for not taking sick leave. But wealth as well as health has attendant obligations which Pope Paul VI once called a “social mortgage.” The rich must share some of their resources so that the needy not lose their human dignity. Jesus in this Gospel of Luke never tires reminding his disciples of this responsibility.
Donating to the poor carries some risks. A beggar may squander our beneficence on liquor, and even some highly regarded charities have misused contributions. But we must not allow these concerns to trump God’s call to generosity. Prudence indicates who deserves our offerings and how much is appropriate for us to give. Failure to comply with the dictates of prudence may nudge our heart more to the side of corruption.