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Narrowing the Chasm of Indifference


“The opposite of love in not hate, it‘a indifference.” ~ Elie Wiesel

It’s hard to ignore the parallel between the plight of Jeremiah in yesterday’s 1st Reading (Jeremiah 18:18-20) and that of the man whose Feast Day we celebrate today, the beloved Patron of Ireland Saint Patrick

Both were men of great fortitude and grit, determined to bring the fullness and richness of Jesus’ salvific message to the vast hordes of largely ungrateful men and women in their midst, many of whom were quite hell bent on insuring their demise. “If I have any worth,” Saint Patrick was believed to have said in the latter stages of his life, “it is to live my life for God. So as to teach these peoples, even though some of them still look down on me.”

In today’s First Reading (Jeremiah (17:5-10), the resolute prophet brings with him a stern warning; “Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in the flesh, whose hearts turn away from the Lord.” Jeremiah goes on to liken these misguided souls to “a barren bush in the desert, one that enjoys no change of season.”

Blessed, on the other hand he would go on to proclaim, are those who trust in the Lord, those whose hope is indeed in the Lord. He compares those individuals to “a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream.” This properly formed individual is fearless in every scenario, he bears fruit in and out of season and regardless of the “droughts” that this fallen world inevitably bring, he perseveres.

Saint Patrick’s Feast Day was not added to the Liturgical Calendar until the 1630s, nonetheless it can be no coincidence that we commemorate him every year during the Lenten Season. Nor can it be a coincidence that we hear from the prophet Jeremiah a number of times during this season of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. These two vibrant men of faith teach us the value of courageous discipleship, bold faith, and a desire to help others to go “deeper with the King” in the ordinary and extraordinary moments of our lives. They take to heart the words of Jesus In Luke’s Gospel (Luke 6:36-38), words that were proclaimed a mere three days ago in our daily readings wherein Jesus urges generosity in forgiveness and an end to incessantly judging others. These are virtues that all of us can pursue with more tenacity and endurance, and Lent is the ideal time for such growth.

In today’s Gospel (Luke 16:19:31), we’re introduced to two men, one very wealthy, the other greatly impoverished. The rich man, who dressed in purple and dined sumptuously every night, but not before literally stepping over the poor man, whose name was Lazarus, would one day die. As we all will. He was relegated to an eternity of torment. Lazarus on the other hand was welcomed into the Kingdom of Heaven upon his death. The rich man, in an effort to save his five brothers from the same fate he was to suffer, beseeched Abraham to send someone to warn them. Abraham responded “If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.”

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As incomprehensible as this may sound on the surface, we know it to be true. Jesus after all rose from the dead, yet the world it would appear remains largely indifferent to him. In the case of the rich man, God did not condemn him because of his wealth. Instead God condemned him because of his utter indifference towards the downtrodden Lazarus. It was a self-obsessed indifference that went far beyond common decency. In the words of Turkish Author Mehmet Murat ildan, “Every time the rich ignore the poor, the rich become poorer! Poorest is the person who has all the means to help others but chooses not to.”

Lent is an opportune time for us to move beyond our indifference, in whatever form it may rear it’s apathetic head. Whether it be acedia, lethargy as it relates to the glorification of God, or as we saw in today’s Gospel, a lack of compassion for those fellow members of Christ’s Mystical Body who are suffering greatly, whether it be physically or emotionally. Robert M. Hutchins once said "The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment." Christianity, it would seem, is vulnerable to the same gloomy demise.

God did not make us to be timid or uncaring in the face of injustice and suffering, nor did he make us to be self-absorbed hoarders of wealth or “things.” A disordered preoccupation with the things of this world takes our focus off of that which is ethereal, that which we are truly made for; to worship God and live the Gospel. In a world that promotes voracious materialism, we must pray for the strength to eschew these cravings. In the words of Randy Alcorn, “The grace that has freed us from bondage to sin is desperately needed to free us from our bondage to materialism.”

On this the day we celebrate the Patron Saint of Ireland, I leave you with the words of another Irishman, the illustrious statesman Edmund Burke. Simple in their eloquence, they bear reflection. We the faithful must defend the faith with a renewed sense of ardor and fervor. For as he said, “Nothing is so fatal to religion as indifference.”

….Saint Patrick, pray for us


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