February 29 -Thursday of the Second Week of Lent

Readings: Jer 17:5-10, Ps 1:1-2, 3, 4 and 6, Lk 16:19-31

Invitation to Prayer: Lord, direct our servant hearts to you. 

Reflection: I’ve known many rich people, many more poor people, and still even more Pharisees in my life. In fact, at different times I’ve acted like each of them in various ways: I’ve squandered personal treasure for my own delights, I’ve been humiliated into accepting charity from strangers, and I’ve preached what I don’t practice. 

My life story informs my death story: When I’m aware of my failings and dependency on God, I put my trust in him, and direct my thoughts and actions toward worshipping and serving him. I know that I’m to pour myself out to others with reckless abandon, in a pale imitation of Jesus pouring himself out on the cross of salvation. That calls for my constant intentional vulnerability to others seeking their own delights at my expense – power, pleasure, and honor – all the “lifetime goods” that Jesus talks about in today’s Gospel. What will my death story be?

One detail sticks out in this parable: Lazarus was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham and is “comforted.” It’s not that Lazarus and the rich man have changed places. Lazarus still bears the wounds of his life of vulnerability, and the rich man is still trying to look after himself and his interests. In his lifetime, Lazarus knew that he was dependent on God’s mercy and sought mercy from others. In his life, the rich man neither dispensed mercy nor sought it. He thought he had everything, but he had nothing worth having. Do I want what I want, or do I want what’s worth having — eternal life with the comfort of my Creator and Redeemer?

Lent helps me focus on showing mercy and receiving it. Mercy is how Love embraces sin and suffering and releases forgiveness — even in my pale imitations of Jesus on the cross. 

Prayer: Dear Jesus, help me learn your mercy! Help me receive mercy from others and help me share your mercy with them. Help me forgive and embrace forgiveness, bringing glory and honor to your triumph of the cross. 

Closing: Let’s focus today on the Lenten gift of merciful love. How can we tenderly love others through our own sin and suffering?

Michael Vanderburgh is executive director of St. Vincent de Paul Society in Dayton and a member of the Archdiocese Child Protection Review Board. This reflection originally appeared on The Catholic Telegraph’s website at: https://www.thecatholictelegraph.com/lenten-reflections-2024/95045

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