At that time, Jesus said to the Pharisees, “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and feasted sumptuously every day. And there was a certain beggar, named Lazarus, who lay at his gate, full of sores, Desiring to be filled with the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table. And no one did give him: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. “And it came to pass that the beggar died and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom. And the rich man also died: and he was buried in hell. And lifting up his eyes when he was in torments, he saw Abraham afar off and Lazarus in his bosom: And he cried and said: ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water to cool my tongue: for I am tormented in this flame.’ And Abraham said to him: ‘Son, remember that thou didst receive good things in thy lifetime, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted and thou art tormented. And besides all this, between us and you, there is fixed a great chaos: so that they who would pass from hence to you cannot, nor from thence come hither.’ And he said: ‘Then, father, I beseech thee that thou wouldst send him to my father’s house, for I have five brethren, That he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torments.’ And Abraham said to him: ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them hear them.’ But he said: ‘No, father Abraham: but if one went to them from the dead, they will do penance.’ And he said to him: ‘If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they believe, if one rise again from the dead.’ ” Luke 16:19-31
One of the exercises that we are encouraged to do in our spiritual process is called Lectio Divina. The process is to take a piece of scripture and read slowly, thoughtfully, allowing the mind to rest on a certain quote or series of words and to contemplate them.
Here we have a man, wealth beyond all recognition, and no indication that he has sinned except that he was rich. And then we have Lazarus, a man wounded by sickness only wanting the crumbs that would fall from a rich man’s table. Lazarus ends up in Heaven at the bosom of Abraham. The rich man ends up in hell, tormented by flame.
When I read today’s reading, I was transfixed on the idea of a great chaos between Heaven and Hell. Rather than think of it as storm between two places, I thought back on my own life, reflecting on the chaos that I encountered between my own states of heaven and hell. When we sit in comfort and look down through the chaos at poverty, is it not natural to equate the poverty with the chaos?
Do we carry chaos in our own minds, in our lives? How comfortable does the chaos become, so that we feast with it as a guest. We dress it in our finery. We accept it, even though we know it is the cause of our misery, and the road to our destruction.
Lent calls us not only to charity, but to stillness. Lent calls us to rest our bodies through fasting that our souls might feast. Lent is the season that is a beacon for us to see through the chaos in our lives to the still point that is Jesus. We encourage this stillness by being fearless in examining our consciences; by being diligent with and sincere in our confessions. But it also calls us as religious to take account of our lives, how we minister, how we exercise the vocation of Love that we are called to do. Jesus is teaching this parable to the Pharisees, those who have become burdened down in their robes, and the law. Have we as priests, as bishops, as religious, become burdened down with our chalices, our patens, the wafers we so casually ‘consecrate’? Have the books we pray from, we read Mass from, stopped being missals and become instead chains?
If we are weighted down by rites and the need to justify our lines of succession, we won’t have room to pick up our crosses to follow Him. The security of things does not replace the security of Divine Love, and the need to share that Divine Love in our actions daily.