Another 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time
6th Sunday in Ordinary time – Luke 6:17, 20-26
This is a gospel of three parts:
· An opening sentence that gives the context, the place and some information about the people who were there.
· Four “Beatitudes” – Happy are they etc.
· Four “Warnings” – Alas to those etc.
The first reading from Jeremiah puts things the other way round:
“A curse on the man……” Followed by: “A blessing on the man……”
You might begin to see where this is going!
The second reading shows Paul applying a bit of logic to some doubts that have occurred in the church at Corinth, ending up with the masterstroke:
“If Christ has not risen, our faith is in vain” but “Christ has in fact been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of all who have fallen asleep.”
Not unlike our gospel. Put simply, those who believe in Christ raised from the dead are “Happy” but “Alas” to those who doubt!
You will not be surprised to hear that it is not as simple as that!
Luke and Mathew both recount what we have come to know as the “Beatitudes”. In Mathew’s gospel it is known as “The sermon on the mount”. In Luke, todays reading, it is known as “The sermon on the plain”.
Both gospel writers have collected a number of Jesus’ sayings and put them together as a single “sermon”. One at a high place, the mount, the other on the plain.
Luke tells us: “Jesus came down with the twelve and stopped at a piece of level ground…”
We need to go back a bit, a few sentences before today’s reading, Jesus has just chosen “the twelve” - the apostles. But:
“there was” also “ a large gathering of his disciples and a great crowd of people…..”
One can only wonder how those disciples felt who were not chosen to be one of the twelve. It is no disgrace, surely, to be an “ordinary” disciple. Isn’t that what we are?
Luke uses this gathering to recount his version of the “happy” sayings and for each one also puts an “alas” saying.
The word “happy” is actually an “unhappy” translation. The Greek word “μακάριοι” implies the kind of peace or serenity of mind of someone who is “at peace” with God.
So it doesn’t matter if you are poor, so long as you are at peace with God.
It doesn’t matter if you are hungry, so long as you are at peace with God.
It doesn’t matter if you are sad, so long as you are at peace with God.
Jesus is turning the world upside down! The teaching of the scribes and Pharisees, the elite ruling classes of Jesus’ day, was that the just man/woman would be rewarded with wealth and good food and would be able to live a happy life with his/her contemporaries. Jesus is the rebel who says NO. Or, at least, not necessarily.
To make the point, Jesus counters each “happy” phrase with an “alas” phrase for those who are, in a human sense, “privileged”.
The point being that it’s not what you have or what you are that makes you “happy” it is whether or not you are “at peace with God”
Jesus has brought his message right down to people’s everyday life. It’s almost as if his “coming down with the twelve” means exactly that.
Pope Francis, in his recent Apostolic Exhortation “Gaudate et Exsultate” – Rejoice and be Glad, talking about the Beatitudes, says this:
“The word ‘Happy’ or ‘Blessed’ becomes a synonym for ‘Holy’. It expresses the fact that those faithful to God and his word, by their self-giving, gain true happiness. Although Jesus’ words may strike us as poetic, they clearly run counter to the way things are usually done in our world.”
This is one of the most contemporary message that could ever have been. Jesus comes down to our everyday lives, whatever that means for each one of us, and asks the question “Are you at peace with God?”
In Jesus’ day, this was revolutionary! I believe it is no different today – possibly even more relevant.