Irony is used in all of the Gospels. Today’s passage from the Gospel of St. Luke is a classic example as we hear the rich man tell Abraham, “If someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.” Here we are almost two thousand years after this Gospel was written and the poor are still being overlooked. Someone has risen from the dead. It doesn’t seem to have made much difference.
Even though St. Luke was a Gentile himself, he uses very Jewish imagery to tell his story which is peculiar to his Gospel. Though some will hear overtones of the Christian notions of heaven and hell in this parable, this was not St. Luke’s intention. He is addressing himself to the common perception of that day that wealth and good fortune were thought of as indications of being a virtuous person in right relationship with God. Conversely, the poor were considered sinners. So the parable is really about the familiar Gospel theme of the reversal of fortune. The first shall be last, and the last shall be first.
Though the theology of reciprocity was popular in Jesus’ day, the plight of the prophets, such as Jeremiah, should have been indication enough that this was not the way God acted. Jeremiah was literally abandoned by everyone. Probably no more than a teenager when God called him to the life of a prophet, he lived a long life of scorn and ridicule and persecution because he proclaimed God’s Word. He ended life as an exile in Egypt, a man without a country as even his family abandoned him because of his constant call to conversion for the children of Israel.
The reading from Jeremiah is very much like Psalm 1. The stress of this image is on the verb – the tree is planted, rooted, grounded in God. It makes no difference where the person may be. If they are upright people, then they are planted near the running stream that is God’s grace. Today’s Scriptures beg us to consider how well we are planted or rooted in God.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator