The connections between the various readings for this Sunday are fairly easy to see. Both the first reading from the prophet Jeremiah and the Psalm compare the cursedness of those who choose to live by worldly principles with the blessedness of those who place their trust and hope in God. The gospel reading correspondingly presents Jesus’ Beatitudes from His Sermon on the Plain.
The Sermon on the Plain is Luke’s account of the (longer) Sermon on the Mount from Matthew. One of the themes running through Luke’s gospel is what is known as a “reversal of fortunes”. The earliest audiences to read this account equated worldly wealth with being in God’s favor. They would have been scandalized by Luke’s version of the Beatitudes which reverses that notion, showing God’s commitment to the poor and oppressed. To this end, Luke did not spiritualize the Beatitudes in the way that Matthew did. Consider for example Luke’s “Blessed are the poor...” vs Matthew’s “Blessed are the poor in spirit...”.
This Sermon is said to be a summary of the gospel and the Beatitudes a summary of the Sermon. So in the Beatitudes, we find the very heart of Jesus’ teaching. Each beatitude begins “Blessed are…”. Used throughout Scripture, the word “blessed” in Hebrew means to “increase in joy” and the beatitudes themselves are promises of eternal happiness in God’s kingdom!
Reflect on that for just a moment.
How shockingly wonderful that the very heart of Jesus’ message is His desire for us to be truly happy! As if that is not enough, He also provides some concrete examples, by way of the rest of the Sermon, of how we can achieve that happiness.
Does Luke’s version of the Beatitudes imply that someone who experiences happiness here on Earth is excluded from these promises? When considered alongside Matthew’s version and in the context of all Sacred Scripture, the answer is no. Every person encounters grief and struggles in life. The readings from this Sunday remind us that living in communion with God’s desire for us, His desire that we be truly happy, means using created realities, His created realities, in a way that bring us and our neighbors closer to Him. When we place our trust and hope in the Lord, cooperating with the graces He showers on us and His will for our lives, we move closer to His promise of eternal joy.
by Danette Morris, Adult Faith Formation Coordinator
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