Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time - Cycle C
1st Reading: Jeremiah 17: 5-8
Responsorial Psalm: 1: 1-2, 3, 4 and 5
2nd Reading: 1 Corinthians 15: 12, 16-20
Gospel: Luke 6: 17, 20-26
The term “Beatitude” is from the Latin word which means “blessing.” This version of the Beatitude teaching is from Luke’s gospel. But I think it’s important to compare this version to the version found in Matthew. The most obvious difference is the location from which Jesus is speaking. In Matthew’s gospel, He is high on a mountain, in Luke’s gospel, He’s down on the plain, eye level with the people he is preaching to. In this gospel, He is at our level. Matthew was writing for the Jews. They expected the voice of authority, the voice of God, to come from somewhere high up. After all, Moses received the 10 Commandments on the top of Mt. Sinai, not in the canyon below it. Placing the sermon on the ground meant it was for all people. It leveled the playing field. Luke was writing for the Gentiles. And remember the reoccurring theme in Luke’s gospel is; Jesus came for EVERYONE, not just a few chosen people. But in both Luke and Matthew’s version, one thing remains the same, there is no gray area.
Jesus’ ministry among us would turn all expectations upside down. The world’s rewards are temporary, but God’s blessings bring Eternal Life. The gospel describes a large number of people but defines them into two groups; the disciples, and the crowd of people who had gathered around to listen. The teaching itself is directed at the disciples, those who already believe. We can assume that they’ve made the commitment to this new way of life, but perhaps need a little lesson on how it will be actually lived out. However, this teaching was not necessarily new to the people who heard it. We heard it in the first reading, in Jeremiah’s prophecy and again in Psalm 1. The term disciple would suggest that there would be some discipline, right? Well, the only way to gain discipline is to practice it. The Beatitudes describe and define Christian moral behavior and discipleship. In the Beatitudes, Reign is a verb, not a place. God’s rule has already occurred, it is here and now, and it should be lived accordingly. Our behavior is important. Remember the quote from St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach the gospel always, and only if necessary, use words.”
One of the “blessings” of having children is their willingness to tattle on the other parent. Several years ago, my children were delighted to tell me about how much fun Dad is in the car. They described a recent trip to a basketball game: “Mom, he went so fast he passed up 5 cars at a time, with the radio blaring.” “It was so cool Mom!”
Now I do not consider myself a “nagging wife” but I did use this conversation as an opportunity to discuss with my husband that his actions speak much louder than his words. And, considering we had a 15-year-old son at the time, who would be wanting his driver's license in a year, perhaps this form of “demonstrated behavior” was not in the best interest of the family. He quickly assured me that the entire story was a complete fabrication created to get a reaction out of me and that I was not to worry, he had been, and always would be a very sensible driver.
Of course, I was very relieved.
We preach by how we live. As always, this essentially brings us back again to the Paschal Mystery. If we are to participate in the joy of the resurrected Christ, we must first join in His suffering and dying. Maybe that is why the church uses Paul’s letter to the Corinthians as a gentle reminder of the resurrected Christ. Persecution is not only the cost of discipleship, but it is the proof that you are living that Christian life. No one would choose to be excluded or insulted, but it is a cost of discipleship, and it will inevitably come in some form to each of us.
I have to tell you, the readings this week scare me.
“Cursed is the one who trusts in human beings… He is like a barren bush in the desert that enjoys no change of season, but stands in a lava waste, a salt, and empty earth…”
And a happy Valentine’s Day to you Mr. Jeremiah! Even the gospel is “Good News” that doesn’t sound so great. I have a pretty terrific life. I’m filled, I laugh, people speak well of me (at least to my face). Woe is me! And I’d be willing to bet, woe is you, too. Luke tells us, if you are rich now, and full now, and live in laughter and approval now, watch out; you already have your reward. The key is that our hearts must go out to others; to those who need a loving heart, just as Jesus did. It is not that God does not want us to be happy or satisfied, the point is he wants ALL of us to be in that state. And, until ALL of us are full and satisfied our hearts are to remain restless. Remember, we are one body in Christ.
Someone once asked… “If they were prosecuting Christians today, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”
Remember a time when things did not turn out the way you would have wanted. What helped you get through this difficult time?
What are some of the qualities of a person who is poor? Hungry? Weeping? Hated for following Jesus? What qualities do you have that are similar to theirs?
Which of the Beatitudes offers the greatest challenge to your basic personal value system? Why is it a challenge? Do you plan on working on the challenge?