Irony in the Story of Lazarus and the Rich Man

Homily for Thursday of the 2nd Week of Lent

The Gospel of St. Luke speaks of a great chasm that exists between Abraham and Lazarus and the rich man who lives in torment, a chasm that is so wide and so deep that no comfort is available to the rich man.

The story is filled with irony. When they were alive, the rich man did not know the name of the beggar that sat in misery at his doorstep. However, once they have both died, he speaks about the beggar by name. He expects Lazarus to serve him, to comfort him, to cool his parched lips with water. This is the role that the rich man has come to expect of the poor. The chasm is a metaphorical reminder of the gap that exists between the rich and the poor.

The irony only gets stronger when the rich man asks Abraham to send Lazarus to his brothers so that he can warn them that they will come to the same end. Again, he thinks of Lazarus as the servant simply because he was poor and they are rich.

The crowning irony comes when the rich man says that they will listen if someone comes back from the dead. Of course, those who first read this Gospel story would have recognized St. Luke’s ironic statement because someone has returned from the dead and has warned us. Yet the warning still goes unheeded today.

The Sinai Covenant specifically enjoins the children of Israel to take care of the needs of the poor. The psalmist recalls this as he proclaims those blessed who follow the dictates of the Lord.

Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator

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