Lush green on the Oasis of En Gedi in the Judean Desert
- Document: Holy Scripture Readings
1.1. First Reading: The Book of the prophet Jeremiah 17: 5-10
1.2. Gospel Reading: The Gospel of St Luke 16: 9-13
1.3. Simple Comment: Both Scriptural readings today, including the responsorial psalm, describe contrasting scenarios. Jeremiah’s contrast of a man who trusts in human beings as opposed to a man who trusts in the Lord uses the very same plant imagery of Psalm 1: barren and dry opposed to green and fruit-bearing. Jesus puts the same contrast but this time using human imagery: a feasting rich man opposed to a beggar. This scene is exactly reversed in the life after death.
- Monument: The Oasis of En Gedi
2.1. Date palms, vineyards, aromatic and medicinal plants made En Gedi in biblical times a symbol of beauty. Today it is still a vivid slash of green on the barren coast of the Dead Sea. A spring gives the area its name (En Gedi means “the Spring of the Kid”). Ibex, a type of mountain goat, can often be surprised in the area.
2.2. An important reference to En Gedi happened in the story of David when he was being hunted by King Saul. Due to Saul’s great envy and jealousy, David had to leave the services of the king and, instead, he hopped from place to place in the Judean desert to avoid being caught. Imagine in this instance as narrated by 1 Samuel 24, Saul launched a hunt comprising 3,000 soldiers! Yet in the cave of En Gedi, David had the opportunity to kill Saul but he did not, because he respected him as the anointed of God.
- Lenten Reflection
3.1. The passage from Jeremiah ends with this phrase: “I, the Lord, alone probe the mind and test the heart, to reward everyone according to his ways, according to the merit of his deeds.” This fittingly connects with Jesus’ own parable about Dives and Lazarus on how God raises the beggar Lazarus to his bosom while sending the rich man among the abode of dead where he was in torment.
3.2. The point-at-issue is not so much that Lazarus was poor and so now he is made rich and oppositely, Dives who was rich then is now made poor. Poverty does not make one go to heaven nor richness automatically condemns one to torment. The first reading and the responsorial psalm are key to understand this parable. Dives trusted only on his wealth and eventually on himself, while Lazarus put his trust in the providence of the Lord. Correctly does Jeremiah state that to trust only in oneself (human beings) is short-lived and like the roots of a tree that does not touch the river or a spring, it is bound to dry up. Trusting God is instead long-lasting, like a tree beside a river that even in the time of drought bears fruit. The oasis of En Gedi is lush with life amidst the barren desert of Judea precisely because a spring flows through it.
- Contemporary Filipino Question: Many rich people in our country live in gated communities. Well-guarded by a private security force, it is difficult for outsiders to enter, much less the beggars. By one’s wealth (well-earned no doubt) there is the clear and present danger that one (specially if already retired and living on one’s pension or trust fund) does not get in touch with the helpless and the needy, one does not even realize they exist. They have a little grocery store inside their village complete with coffee shop and all; they even have a Mass celebrated every Saturday evening on their basketball court. They do no harm to anyone; they also do no alms!