Thursday, March 08, 2007

Thursday in the 2nd Week of Lent
The Water is for the Fire

Readings: Jeremiah 17:5-10; Psalm 1:1-2, 3, 4 and 6; Luke 16:19-31

A blessing on the man who puts his trust in the Lord… He is like a tree by the waterside…

There is an approach to religion and spirituality that would interpret this text in a very materialistic and even self-centred way. If only I put my trust in the Lord, if only I make the law of the Lord my delight, if only I keep all the rules and say all my prayers, then God will bless me with material success. God will make my business and my career prosper. God will grant me an attractive spouse and intelligent and healthy children. Perhaps God may even let me strike the lottery. I’m not sure if it’s true, but I’ve been told that there are some groups in Singapore that actually promote such a 4-D spirituality.

The pairing of our first reading today with the parable of Lazarus helps us to see how misguided is this approach. Read together, the scriptures today confirm and deepen our meditation of yesterday. The building is on fire. Many are in peril. And if we put our trust in the Lord, then we will be given the strength to rush into the building, in whatever way we can, to help those who might still be trapped in the flames. In other words, to evoke the alternative imagery of the first reading and the psalm, the water by which the tree is planted is meant not only for the tree’s own nourishment, but so that the tree might then bear fruit for the sustenance of others.
The water is for the fire.

We are blessed in order that we might be blessings to others. Our resources are meant for the needy person sitting at our gate. This is the urgent call that is addressed to all, especially those who claim to put their trust in God and who delight in the Law of the Lord. In the gospel parable, this urgency is highlighted by two shocking developments that take place when this world finally gives way to the next. The first is the great chasm that develops between Lazarus and the rich man. Before death, it was still possible for the rich man to reach out beyond his gate. It was still possible for him to take on the role of a firefighter, channeling the water of his God-given resources to save Lazarus from the flames of poverty. But after death, such a crossing is no longer possible. All that separated them in this life – especially the apathy and self-centredness of the rich – become a permanent obstacle to their coming together in the next. And perhaps what’s even more frightening is that, along with the great chasm, there is also a great reversal: the person who was once at risk is now comforted, while the person who once enjoyed safety and comfort is now in flames.

Again, our meditation serves to focus our Lenten discipline. To repent and return to the Lord is also to reach out to others, especially those sitting by our gate, those in need, those endangered by the flames. The nourishing waters of devotion that we may obtain through our Lenten observance needs to be channeled to help quench the flames of their thirst.

The water is for the fire…
Who are the ones sitting at our gate today?

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