A corporeal faith

– Thursday of the 2nd Week of Lent –

‘There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.”’ [Luke 16:19-24]

There is something spiritually primitive, even visceral, about the story Jesus is telling here. We encounter words like feasted, sores, dogs, hunger, thirst, tongues and flames. It is spiritual in its implications, but very physical in its telling.

It reminds us of a central tenet of the Catholic faith: that the spiritual and the physical are deeply connected. This connection is established in the Incarnation, where God becomes human with all the physicality that that entails. It is carried over into the Catholic awareness of sacramentality, where the spiritual is expressed in and through the physical. It impacts our day-to-day lives through our ever-deepening awareness that how we act and behave towards others has profound implications for who we are spiritually (Matthew 25:31-46).

Any attempt to live our faith in a way that divorces us from the reality of what is going on around us will, according to Jesus’ story, end in disaster. We cannot use our faith as an excuse to be uninvolved in our world. In fact, the message in this story is even stronger than that: if we have not learned to assist those in need, even the death and resurrection of Christ will be of little benefit to us (see Luke 16:30-31).

Abraham tells the rich man that he and his brothers received plenty of assistance to know how they were to have lived their lives. So have we. 

By Shane Dwyer

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