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March 16, Okeke SJ - Jesuits of North-West Africa Province | Society of Jesus

Thursday, Second Week of Lent

March 16, 2017

READINGS: Jer 17: 5-10; Ps 1; Lk 16:19-31.

by, *Mr. Christian Okeke, SJ


Is there any person peculiarly exempted from the Two Standards of living which today's readings present to us? I doubt none. It would be meaningless to look beyond ourselves in searching for who falls under, within or outside which category. The evidences abound all over! How many times have we followed our own ways, trusting in our devices and self-seeking achievements and possessions and judgements, sometimes excluding or confusing our responses to God's loving invitations upon us? The Lord is reminding us today of the two distinct principles which leads to curses, emptiness, doom, and ultimate death or to blessings, true fulfillment, refreshing prosperity, and eternal life. The story of the rich man and Lazarus concretises this imagery: no accommodation or collusion between God's own standards and our self-centred ways of being. The great chasm exists and even continues in both temporal and eternal dimensions.

The real message reveals one secret: that the Loving Lord wills and desires us to be fully alive forever, if planted and nourished in Him: this begins here and now. God's 'ecology' is that we become transformed into ever-green fruit-yielding trees, from which others, like Lazarus, can pluck and eat from. Otherwise, who desires to become a barren tree in a wasteland or an uninhabited wilderness? Never.

Again, God demands our hope and trust in Him despite the certainty of the heat in the year of drought. Only God's promises of blessings secure the only unfailing anchor for our fruitfulness and peace of mind.

This season provokes us to what is at stake here: the freedom of our hearts. Our spiritual liberty defines us as humans. God has issued His invitation. Ours is to respond, appropriately. According to His ways and standards and not as it pleases our fancies. There is no third or neutral pathway. But this must be done in real freedom. No compulsions. No undue influences. No wondering then about the rich man's five brothers. They, and we, cannot be compelled to listen and obey the Word of God or to pay attention to and assist the needy around us. The Gospel of Christ now provokes our thoughts and freedom anew: to wake up always in paying attention to the Word of God and to be genuinely compassionate in sharing with others like Lazarus.

The exercise of our freedom comes through a discernment that considers the two Standards as God's secret memos for our living. Too bad the rich man understood this too late. The possible failure to do and act on this is confirmed by God's lamentation about the inexplicable, deceitful, corruption of human hearts. Thank God for His Living Word in Jesus Christ, our Teacher and Model.

God alone can give us the strength to repent always and be convinced afresh in living for Him through love for others especially in challenging times like ours. May we be awakened towards receiving the needed graces for discerning and living out God's Word in truth and compassion, today and always. Amen.


*Mr. Christian Okeke, SJ, is a Jesuit Scholastic presently studying theology at Hekima University College in Nairobi, Kenya.  

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