Thursday, March 16, 2006

A Brief Reflection

I'm waiting for my mind to clear so that I can get down to studying in earnest. I thought in the meantime, I would share some thoughts that I've been mulling over since this morning's Gospel. It's the story of the rich man and Lazarus.
He said, 'Then I beg you, father, send [Lazarus]to my father's house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment.'

But Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.'

He said, 'Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.'

Then Abraham said, 'If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.'
When later in the Gospel, Saint Thomas is given the opportunity to place his fingers into the wounds of the risen Lord, we hear Christ tell him that "blessed are they who have not seen, and still believe." This remark in the Gospel can sometimes be interpreted a little heavily, and entire philosophical schools have been founded upon the proposition that some see suggested in this statement: that seeing is believing. But, is it?

Today, Christ places a different type of saying into the mouth of the patriarch Abraham in a parable. Even if people could see someone rise from the dead, belief may not necessarily follow. This gives a bit of a rubric for how we interpret Christ's later words in the account of the Resurrection.

In my reading of these passages, something that stands out is the gift character of the virtue of Faith, and the need to recall this fact and praise God for having been counted worthy enough to receive such a gift. There are many people in the world today who give similar protestations to the rich man in today's Gospel. I am not altogether unsympathetic towards these types of people. Notice that we hear most from them in the aftermath of some terrible natural disaster or other manmade catastrophe. Their words - and, for that matter, the words of the rich man out of context - are not altogether unlike the lamentations of the psalmist: "Why, O Lord, do you hide your face?" Haec credam a Deo pio, a Deo justo, a Deo scito? If each of us is honest with himself, he will readily admit that it is sometimes difficult to believe in a God with whose humanity we interact mystically, in word and sacrament, rather than in a visible flesh and blood embodiment.

There's an old saying: there but for the grace of God go I. None of us is too far from the rich man suffering in the unquenchable fires. The usual interpretation of this parable centers on the call to love one's neighbor in keeping with the Law. Yet, I would suggest that there is an earlier step alluded to here, and brouht out more clearly in the encounter with Thomas after the Resurrection: we must have gratitude for the gift of faith. A spirit of appreciation and greatfulness is the beginnings of the good works neglected by the rich man. Did he merely ignore Lazarus? Was that his only sin? Did he not first take for granted the plenty of his table, and all the good things that had come to Him from the hand of God? In a world that can offer so many challenges to faith, when God so often hides His face from us, let us keep in mind - especially during Lent - that our Faith is a gift. We must walk in constant appreciation of this gift, and bear it humbly, lest we fail to act upon its promptings and end up like the rich man of the parable. Blessed are we who have not seen, and yet believe...

2 Comments:

Blogger Philologia said...

I got your site off of Sean's profile. And yeah, padre is from the allentown diocese. The same Fr. Bishop.

3/16/06, 10:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joe; joy and service of Christ in the poor go hand-in-hand as a consequence of your able thesis. Keep the thanks and the "thinks" going! -- Peace. Ged.

3/17/06, 8:10 PM  

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