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I Wish Life Had an Instructional Manual

March 4, 2021   Thursday of the Second Week of Lent (Lectionary: 233)

Reading I   Jer 17:5-10
Thus says the LORD:
Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings,
who seeks his strength in flesh,
whose heart turns away from the LORD.
He is like a barren bush in the desert
that enjoys no change of season,
But stands in a lava waste,
a salt and empty earth.
Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose hope is the LORD.
He is like a tree planted beside the waters
that stretches out its roots to the stream:
It fears not the heat when it comes,
its leaves stay green;
In the year of drought it shows no distress,
but still bears fruit.
More tortuous than all else is the human heart,
beyond remedy; who can understand it?
I, the LORD, alone probe the mind
and test the heart,
To reward everyone according to his ways,
according to the merit of his deeds.

Responsorial Psalm   1:1-2, 3, 4 and 6
R. (40:5a) Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
Blessed the man who follows not
the counsel of the wicked
Nor walks in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the company of the insolent,
But delights in the law of the LORD
and meditates on his law day and night.
R. Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
He is like a tree
planted near running water,
That yields its fruit in due season,
and whose leaves never fade.
Whatever he does, prospers.
R. Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
Not so, the wicked, not so;
they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
For the LORD watches over the way of the just,
but the way of the wicked vanishes.
R. Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.

Verse before the Gospel   See Lk 8:15
Blessed are they who have kept the word with a generous heart
and yield a harvest through perseverance.

Gospel   Lk 16:19-31
Jesus said to the Pharisees:
“There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen
and dined sumptuously each day.
And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores,
who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps
that fell from the rich man’s table.
Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.
When the poor man died,
he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham.
The rich man also died and was buried,
and from the netherworld, where he was in torment,
he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off
and Lazarus at his side.
And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me.
Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue,
for I am suffering torment in these flames.’
Abraham replied, ‘My child,
remember that you received what was good during your lifetime
while Lazarus likewise received what was bad;
but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented.
Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established
to prevent anyone from crossing
who might wish to go from our side to yours
or from your side to ours.’
He said, ‘Then I beg you, father, send him
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.’”

By Amy Blythe 

I emptied the box containing the 4,000 pieces of the assemble-yourself-desk I had just purchased for my first grown-up apartment. It would not surprise anyone who knows me to learn that I did not bother to collect the instruction manual from the box, too.

Feeling confident in my knowledge of what a desk looks like, and therefore my ability to make the pieces come together to resemble one, I got to work. I connected desk legs to crossbars and screws to the table top and drawers to their tracks. Finished, I stepped back to find that in addition to having several pieces leftover, the desk was leaning awkwardly to one side. Frustrated, I took the desk back apart.

Today’s Gospel reminds me that I am not the first, nor will I likely be the last, to decide against referring to the manual. 

The rich man, in his lavish clothes and fine foods, ignores the ailing man at his doorstep, disregarding the many, many admonitions of the Word of God to care for the poor. Lazarus was so poor that he would have gladly eaten the scraps from the wealthy man’s table, yet he was still overlooked.

After a life of suffering, Lazarus was carried by angels to the “bosom of Abraham,” while the wealthy man perished in the fires of hell. Crying out, he sought pity from Father Abraham and asked for someone to send warning to his five brothers of the suffering to come should they not heed God’s commands.  Abraham tells him that he already received what was good in his lifetime. He reminds him, and me, that those on Earth already have access to all the warning that could ever be needed.

While Saint Luke’s Gospel often speaks about rich versus poor in regards to money, he also speaks about piety. His concern for the treatment of the poor, for those with less, and for those on the margins transcends the dollars that I thoughtlessly toss into the collection basket each Sunday. He speaks to the need for the actions of this life to be motivated by the Eternal life to come.

More so, Jesus speaks of the gift that is my access to the instructions that will get me there. 

It gives me pause.

When I am rich in time, do I offer care to those in need of more hours in their day?

When I am well rested and my cup is full, do I pour out to serve the burdened?

In the richness of my privilege, do I stand for the oppressed?

Do I love in such a way that Jesus might recognize in it my deep love for Him?

When I fail to share all that has been given to me, I fail to heed the Word of God as the living, active, instruction manual on how to prepare my heart and soul for the world to come.

My life, much like my desk, becomes lopsided and unstable. 

Surrounded by the many pieces of desk once again, I conceded, referencing the manual for the placement of each screw. Finally, I had a desk worthy of the name. It was tempting to believe that because I know what a desk looks like that I did not need the manual.

It can be just as tempting to believe that I know what a life motivated by the love of Jesus should look like, and allow my time in the Word to fall to the wayside. 

Thank you, Lord, for the reminder today: in this life of faith, I need the manual. I have the gift of the Holy Word, and through it He shows me the way.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amy Blythe is a wife and mom to 4 children, ages 5 and under. She holds her MA in Pastoral Theology from Loyola University-Chicago and has worked in campus and high school ministry. When she isn't wrangling her little ones or writing, you can find her jogging through the countryside or on her back porch with a book. You can find more about Amy here.  

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