Thursday of Week 2 of Lent – First Reading

Commentary on Jeremiah 17:5-10

The theme of today’s Mass concerns priorities and is about our responsibilities to those around us. It deals with Cain’s question: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” and the story of the beggar (Lazarus) and the rich man.

In the First Reading, Jeremiah makes a strong contrast between two kinds of people:

  • those who think they are self-sufficient; who are immersed in the material world and ignore the place of God in their lives. They feel they ‘have it made’; and
  • those who put all their trust in God and in the way of life that God suggests.
  • The lives of the first type are basically arid and empty:

    They shall be like a shrub in the desert…

    They have no eye for what is really good. Surrounded by luxuries and pleasures, they unwittingly live in a desert. They measure their lives by what they have – not by what they themselves are, and even less by what they are in their relationship with others.

    The second group of people are:

    …like a tree planted by water,
    sending out its roots by the stream.
    It shall not fear when heat comes,
    and its leaves shall stay green;
    in the year of drought it is not anxious,
    and it does not cease to bear fruit.

    Such people may lead lives of great material simplicity, but are in touch with a deeper source of wealth: God’s truth, wisdom and love.

    Finally, there is the warning about our ‘gift’ for self-deception. Verse 11, not quoted (for some reason) in today’s reading, is very appropriate:

    Like the partridge hatching what it did not lay,
    so are all who amass wealth unjustly;
    in midlife it will leave them,
    and at their end they will prove to be fools.

    You can’t take it with you and, while you have it, you need to share it with those who are genuinely deprived. This is clearly the message of today’s Gospel as well.

    It is very easy to be persuaded that happiness lies in having things, having status, having power. But God is not interested in things that impress externally; he only judges what goes on in the depths of the heart. Where do I stand in all this? Where do I put my trust? In what are my values?

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