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Beggars of Grace

First Reading: Jeremiah 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: 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.

Gospel: Luke 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.’”

NAB

feb 25

“More tortuous is the human heart than all else . . . who can understand it?”

Man, that’ll preach.

There is nothing quite like Lent to remind me of the great flip-flopping madness of my all-too human heart. It can feel so discouraging. I want so much to use this time well, to really embrace repentance and fasting and see the radical conversion of heart I know I am called to if I am to seriously pursue holiness.

At least, I want to embrace it until it means giving up that doughnut, swallowing down that harsh word, giving up my agenda to serve someone else.

I am certainly glad we have the comfort of knowing that God understands our hearts, because I certainly do not understand my own most of the time.

But I do know this, my heart longs for heaven. My heart longs to spend eternity with my Father.

And if that is truly my goal, I must learn to deny myself, take up my cross and follow Jesus. I must embrace the life of Lazarus who begged for scraps while his wounds oozed and attracted stray dogs.

We spend so much time trying to cover up our wounds and hide our tattered spirits so that we can earn our place at the table, achieve the status and eat of the good things.

But God desires a heart that hungers for Him, a spirit that bears its battered wounds in humility, and a soul that is willing to live wholly dependent on grace.

It is hard to imagine that such a messy looking life like Lazarus’ can be the way to heaven, while the well put together life of the rich man can be the path to hell.

But God knows our hearts. No amount of brokenness and messiness makes us unattractive to Him, as long as it drives us to cry for Him in humble faith.

On the other hand, if we come to believe that we can put ourselves together all by ourselves and we have no need for him, then nothing will convince us otherwise.

May Lazarus remind me that God values the begging of my fallen heart much more than he does the cleanliness of my purple robes. Help me to remember that I can get to Heaven on the grace scraps I beg in my misery faster than I can on the delicacies I prepare from my own perfection.

Let’s not be confounded by our fickleness and brokenness this Lent, but encouraged by our wounds and sores to embrace the beggar’s life, the path that can lead us to Heaven if we only look to the One who dies to save us and rises to give us life.

Are you already finding yourself discouraged with your Lenten promises? Take today to beg God’s grace to persevere, and to remember that the work of repentance does not lie in being perfect already, but in acknowledging just how imperfect you really are.

photo credit

Colleen Mitchell is wife to Greg and mother to five amazing sons here on earth. They serve in Costa Rica where they run the St. Francis Emmaus Center, a ministry that welcomes indigenous mothers into their home to provide them access to medical care, support and education in the weeks before and after the birth of a child. Find out more about her here.

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