Reflections from Project Mexico

Duing this week before Lazarus Saturday, the hymns of the church reflect on the two stories of Lazarus. The first story is the parable of Jesus about the rich man and the beggar named Lazarus. The second story is the historical account of the raising of Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, from the dead. In the Church’s theological reflection, these two Lazaruses are elided. One story helps interpret the other. The Lazarus of the parable is set every day at the gate of the rich man to beg. He longs for the crumbs that fall from the rich man’s table, but receives nothing. The dogs lick his sores (perhaps meaning that the ungodly and irreligious were kinder than the believing brother–a story many could tell). One of the verses from Monday evening vespers for the sixth week of Lent compares our mind (nous) to Lazarus set before the gates of repentance, but the lazy and passion-driven rich man of my body refuses to give my soul one spiritual crumb. That is, “the poor” are not just those with less money than I have. The poor man and the rich man both live inside each of us. Sin has fractured our personalities; consequently, we have to choose who we are, who we are becoming. Whom we feed, we become. Some of us have so starved our spiritual selves, that like the historical Lazarus, we need to be raised from the dead and freed from our grave clothes. Others of us, like the weak beggar of the parable, beg from our lazy and passion-driven selves just a little spiritual food, a little prayer, a little discipline, a little spiritual reading–something to feed the gnawing hunger of our minds (nous). And although this theological reflection (found in the Church hymns for this week) may seem to us selfish, it is not at all. By healing myself, by feeding the poor spiritual man in my own heart, I become someone who can actually help others. Anyone who has tried, really tried, to help the poor knows that material resources given with the best intention often do little more than bandage a cancer. Sometimes freely given material resources make situations worse. To really help others, one must see clearly and discern rightly. A physician must heal himself so that he is able to heal others. I am not suggesting that anyone should wait until he or she is healed before he or she tries to help others. It is always good to do good. However, pay attention. If in trying to do good you find that you are not, the problem my lie in yourself. The poor man within you needs to be cared for: your soul, your spirit, your relationship with God must be nurtured. Then as you are healed, you will find resources (not just material) to heal others. In fact, you may find that those whom you think are poor (and may indeed be materially poor) are the ones who give to you. In the parable, we begin by thinking Lazarus is the poor one, only to find out in the next life that he is the wealthy one. Enough reflection. I have to go back to pounding nails. By the way, I’m feeling much better today, but several others have got the bug now. Keep us in your prayers and share in this work with us!

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