Luke 6:20-26 | 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)
6th Sunday in Ordinary Time (C) ///Luke 6:20-26 ///Luke 6:20-26
6th Sunday in Ordinary Time (C) ///Luke 6:20-26 ///Luke 6:20-26
SERMON ON THE PLAIN
Blessings & Woes
Happy, blessed, are the poor, whose reward is great in heaven
NABRE NOTES: Almost all the words of Jesus reported by Luke are found in Matthew’s version, but because Matthew includes sayings that were related to specifically Jewish Christian problems (e.g., Mt 5:17–20; 6:1–8, 16–18) that Luke did not find appropriate for his predominantly Gentile Christian audience, the “Sermon on the Mount” is considerably longer.
AGAPE BIBLE STUDY: In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus gave a homily on the mountain (Mt Chapters 5-7) that included His spiritual Beatitude teaching. A beatitude (makarios in Greek) is a blessing bestowed by God. There are three major theories that Bible scholars have developed to account for the differences between Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount and Luke’s Sermon on the Plain:
HECTOR MOLINA – Jesus was not out in some plain, like the plains of Nebraska or Kansas. Luke 6:12 shows that Jesus went out into the hills (Grk: oros = “hill, mount, mountain) to pray; and he was there all night. In verse 17, he comes down with the Twelve Apostles and stands on a level place, a plateau, not necessarily a plain (cf. first 15 minutes of video featured at top of the page).
SERMON WRITER: [This] contrasts with the Gospel of Matthew, where Jesus delivers his sermon from the mountain (Matthew 5:1). Luke is sensitive to the lowly and poor. Perhaps having Jesus come down to the level place is his way of emphasizing Jesus’ ministry to ordinary people in ordinary places. Luke usually portrays disciples in small groups. Only here and in Luke 19:37 does he show us a large crowd of disciples.
The places mentioned in Lk 6:17 are an interesting mix:
Together, these four places emphasize the breadth of Jesus’ ministry—from far north to far south—from orthodox Jews to Gentiles.
For Luke, “disciples” means not just “the Twelve,”
Those Jesus gathered, who then dug and delved
To figure out the truth of who he was,
And sang, “What’s happening?” and “What’s the buzz?”
ARCHBISHOP PAUL D. ETIENNE (SEATTLE): For me, as with all Scripture, but especially with the Gospel where Jesus is speaking, it is important to allow the ‘person of Jesus’ to speak directly to me, and to you… This action or ‘image’ of looking at Jesus is called to mind by Luke at the very beginning of this Sermon when he states: “And raising his eyes toward his disciples he [Jesus] said:” (Luke 6:20) and then begins the ‘sermon.’ Jesus is looking at his disciples, and he is looking at each of us.
This is our starting point for listening to the Gospel, Jesus is looking at us with love. To ‘listen to his Word’ is to look upon the face of Jesus; is to have a personal encounter with Jesus. Place yourself with the multitude upon the mount or the plain as Jesus is speaking, and allow his Word to penetrate your heart as his gaze of love penetrates your soul. Hear his voice. Experience his compassion. Understand his ‘authority’ as the ‘Word made flesh.’ This is not just any teaching, but the loving instruction of the Living God who comes down from heaven.
SERMON WRITER: Some modern translations use the word “happy” instead of “blessed” to translate makarioi. That is an “unhappy” choice, given the connotations associated with the word happy in our culture. The blessing here is the security of knowing that one is right with God.
LIFE APPLICATION BIBLE COMMENTARY: The word “blessed” means more than happiness; it means favored and approved by God… In God’s kingdom, a person who is “blessed” experiences hope and joy, independent of his or her outward circumstances… Jesus was not cursing all that is part of life—such as laughter, fun, happiness, money, food—but if these become the focus of life without regard to God, then a person cannot be “blessed” by God.
The beatitudes are a “series of bomb-shells” or “flashes of lightning followed by the thunder of surprise and shock” for Jesus’ hearers. – FR TONY KADAVIL
Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II – A paradox is a statement that seems contradictory but may be true in fact. From the Greek words para for beyond and doxa for opinion, a paradox promotes critical thinking and deep introspection or reflections. Christian living is a life of paradoxes as we often hear Jesus our Lord telling us to lose our lives in order to gain it. St. Francis of Assisi knew it so well that in his prayer to be an instrument of peace, he rightly claimed that “it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned and it is in dying that we are born into eternal life.” …For Jesus Christ, true blessedness and the way of happiness for us His disciples is being poor, hungry, weeping, and hated. What a paradox indeed!
SACRED SPACE BLOG: Jesus upturns the values we would normally consider desirable. He asks us to realise that we are not living simply to be happy in this life but we should ask ourselves the deeper value of our ways of life in the light of what we can bring with us to eternal life.
AGAPE BIBLE STUDY: Jesus promises blessings to those who have suffered from social injustice in this life (Luke 6:20-23):
In old age the great French painter, suffered from arthritis. Grasping a brush with only his fingertips, however, he continued to paint, even though each movement caused stabbing pain. When asked why he persevered at the expense of such torture, Renoir replied, “The pain passes, but the beauty remains.” This is a great answer to the paradox we find in Luke’s beatitudes and the cross of Jesus. Why should we keep on pushing ahead in our commitment to the Kingdom of God as disciples of Christ when it costs us so dearly – our money, our possessions, our health and even our good name? Because, as Renoir says, ’the pain passes, but the beauty remains’.
JAIME L. WATERS – Jesus criticizes those who live comfortably while others suffer. The critique against people who are regarded favorably like false prophets of old is a reference to groups frequently mentioned in prophetic literature of the Old Testament. The false or lying prophets said what people wanted to hear and were praised and celebrated for it. But in reality, they were proclaiming that things were going well when suffering was widespread and destruction was imminent.
CHRISTIAN RESOURCE INSTITUTE: The background of Jesus’ visit to Nazareth becomes more clear. Jesus introduced a prophetic theme there (4:24) that caused an immediate reaction from the people. While the disciples are not called “prophets” here, and are assigned no prophetic role, Luke seems to be drawing an analogy between the OT prophets who spoke the truth, and the disciples who will live the truth (as outlined in vv. 26-49). The point is that truth, in whatever form it is presented, is not welcome in a world that is governed by self-interest, and whose values are decided by the rich and satisfied who have need of nothing. There is a subversive element to the truth, and the only recourse people have is to silence it by hatred, exclusion, vilification, and defamation. And yet those “poor” who are rejected are the heart of the kingdom of God, because they join the poor of the world who have no other future except God’s future.
STMARYSTARS.ORG: The woeful are those who have grown comfortable and smug. They may not experience discomfort during this life. But their relative abundance, plentiful tables and good times now will place their future in jeopardy. To live under the verdict of “woe” means condemnation.
Jesus does not ask his listeners to become destitute in order to join the “blessed,” but given the options he presents, it is undeniable that he expects a response that reaches out to others and involves sacrifice. Later in Luke’s Gospel we will meet characters such as Zacchaeus and the Good Samaritan, individuals who were depicted by Luke as willing to put ample material resources at the service of others.
AGAPE BIBLE STUDY: [Jesus] pronounced judgment on the rich who allowed poverty to increase without using the blessings of their material wealth to comfort the poor and suffering. The rich who did not share their wealth would only receive temporal blessings in this life. Their judgment was to remain spiritually impoverished and to have no share in the eternal blessings promised in Jesus’s heavenly Kingdom:
THE NAVARRE BIBLE: Our Lord here condemns four things: avarice and attachment to the things of the world; excessive care of the body, gluttony; empty-headed joy and general self-indulgence; flattery, and disordered desire for human glory—four common vices which a Christian needs to be on guard against.
A person learns to live the Beatitudes by practicing, with the aid of God’s grace, the moral virtues (prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance; see Wis 8:7).
20. And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.
21. Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh.
22. Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake.
23. Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. After the ordination of the Apostles, the Saviour directed His disciples to the newness of the evangelical life.
AMBROSE. But being about to utter His divine oracles, He begins to rise higher; although He stood in a low place, yet as it is said, He lifted up his eyes. What is lifting up the eyes, but to disclose a more hidden light?
BEDE. And although He speaks in a general way to all, yet more especially He lifts up His eyes on His disciples; for it follows, on his disciples, that to those who receive the word listening attentively with the heart, He might reveal more fully the light of its deep meaning.
AMBROSE. Now Luke mentions only four blessings, but Matthew eight; but in those eight are contained these four, and in these four those eight. For the one has embraced as it were the four cardinal virtues, the other has revealed in those eight the mystical number. For as the eighth 1 is the accomplishment of our hope, so is the eighth also the completion of the virtues. But each Evangelist has placed the blessings of poverty first, for it is the first in order, and the purest, as it were, of the virtues; for he who has despised the world shall reap an eternal reward. Now can any one obtain the reward of the heavenly kingdom who, overcome by the desires of the world, has no power of escape from them? Hence it follows, He said, Blessed are the poor.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. In the Gospel according to St. Matthew it is said, Blessed are the poor in spirit, that we should understand the poor in spirit to be one of a modest and somewhat depressed mind. Hence our Saviour says, Learn from me, for I am meek and lowly of heart. But Luke says, Blessed are the poor, without the addition of spirit, calling those poor who despise riches. For it became those who were to preach the doctrines of the saving Gospel to have no covetousness, but their affections set upon higher things.
BASIL. (in Ps. 33.) But not every one oppressed with poverty is blessed, but he who has preferred the commandment of Christ to worldly riches. For many are poor in their possessions, yet most covetous in their disposition; these poverty does not save, but their affections condemn. For nothing involuntary deserves a blessing, because all virtue is characterized by the freedom of the will. Blessed then is the poor man as being the disciple of Christ, Who endured poverty for us. For the Lord Himself has fulfilled every work which leads to happiness, leaving Himself an example for us to follow.
EUSEBIUS. But when the celestial kingdom is considered in the many gradations of its blessings, the first step in the scale belongs to those who by divine instinct embrace poverty. Such did He make those who first became His disciples; therefore He says in their person, For yours is the kingdom of heaven, as pointedly addressing Himself to those present, upon whom also He lifted up His eyes.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. After having commanded them to embrace poverty, He then crowns with honour those things which follow from poverty. It is the lot of those who embrace poverty to be in want of the necessaries of life, and scarcely to be able to get food. He does not then permit His disciples to be fainthearted on this account, but says, Blessed are ye who hunger now.
BEDE. That is, blessed are ye who chasten your body and subject it to bondage, who in hunger and thirst give heed to the word, for then shall ye receive the fulness of heavenly joys.
GREGORY OF NYSSA. (de Beat. orat. 4.) But in a deeper sense, as they who partake of bodily food vary their appetites according to the nature of the things to be eaten; so also in the food of the soul, by some indeed that is desired which depends upon the opinion of men, by others, that which is essentially and of its own nature good. Hence, according to Matthew, men are blessed who account righteousness in the place of food and drink; by righteousness I mean not a particular but an universal virtue, which he who hungers after is said to be blessed.
BEDE. Plainly instructing us, that we ought never to account ourselves sufficiently righteous, but always desire a daily increase in righteousness, to the perfect fulness of which the Psalmist shews us that we can not arrive in this world, but in the world to come. I shall be satisfied when thy glory shall be made manifest (Ps. 17:15.). Hence it follows, For ye shall be filled.
GREGORY OF NYSSA. (ubi sup.) For to those who hunger and thirst after righteousness He promises abundance of the things they desire. For none of the pleasures which are sought in this life can satisfy those who pursue them. But the pursuit of virtue alone is followed by that reward, which implants a joy in the soul that never faileth.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. But poverty is followed not only by a want of those things which bring delight, but also by a dejected look, because of sorrow. Hence it follows, Blessed are ye that weep. He blesses those who weep, not those who merely drop tears from their eyes, (for this is common to the believing and unbelieving, when sorrow befals them,) but rather He calls those blessed, who shun a careless life, mixed up with sin, and devoted to carnal pleasures, and refuse enjoyments almost weeping from their hatred of all worldly things.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. 18. ad pop. Ant.) But godly sorrow is a great thing, and it worketh repentance to salvation. Hence St. Paul when he had no failings of his own to weep for, mourned for those of others. Such grief is the source of gladness, as it follows, For ye shall laugh. For if we do no good to those for whom we weep, we do good to ourselves. For he who thus weeps for the sins of others, will not let his own go unwept for; but the rather he will not easily fall into sin. Let us not be ever relaxing ourselves in this short life, lest we sigh in that which is eternal. Let us not seek delights from which flow lamentation, and much sorrow, but let us be saddened with sorrow which brings forth pardon. We often find the Lord sorrowing, never laughing.
BASIL. (Hom. de Grat. act.) But He promises laughing to those who weep; not indeed the noise of laughter from the mouth, but a gladness pure and unmixed with aught of sorrow.
BEDE. He then who on account of the riches of the inheritance of Christ, for the bread of eternal life, for the hope of heavenly joys, desires to suffer weeping, hunger, and poverty, is blessed. But much more blessed is he who does not shrink to maintain these virtues in adversity. Hence it follows, Blessed are ye when men shall hate you. For although men hate, with their wicked hearts they can not injure the heart that is beloved by Christ, It follows, And when they shall separate you. Let them separate and expel you from the synagogue. Christ finds you out, and strengthens you. It follows; And shall reproach you. Let them reproach the name of the Crucified, He Himself raises together with Him those that have died with Him, and makes them sit in heavenly places. It follows, And cast out your name as evil. Here he means the name of Christian, which by Jews and Gentiles as far as they were able was frequently erased from the memory, and east out by men, when there was no cause for hatred, but the Son of man; for in truth they who believed on the name of Christ, wished to be called after His name. Therefore He teaches that they are to be persecuted by men, but are to be blessed beyond men. As it follows, Rejoice ye in that day, and weep for joy, for behold your reward is great in heaven.
CHRYSOSTOM. Great and little are measured by the dignity of the speaker. Let us enquire then who promised the great reward. If indeed a prophet or an apostle, little had been in his estimation great; but now it is the Lord in whose hands are eternal treasures and riches surpassing man’s conception, who has promised great reward.
BASIL. (Hom. 6. in Hex.) Again, great has sometimes a positive signification, as the heaven is great, and the earth is great; but sometimes it has relation to something else, as a great ox or great horse, on comparing two things of like nature. I think then that great reward will be laid up for those who suffer reproach for Christ’s sake, not as in comparison with those things in our power, but as being in itself great because given by God.
DAMASCENE. (in lib. de Logic c. 49.) Those things which may be measured or numbered are used definitely, but that which from a certain excellence surpasses all measure and number we call great and much indefinitely; as when we say that great is the longsuffering of God.
EUSEBIUS. He then fortifies His disciples against the attacks of their adversaries, which they were about to suffer as they preached through the whole world; adding, For in like manner did their fathers to the prophets.
AMBROSE. For the Jews persecuted the prophets even to death.
BEDE. They who speak the truth commonly suffer persecution, yet the ancient prophets did not therefore from fear of persecution turn away from preaching the truth.
AMBROSE. In that He says, Blessed are the poor, thou hast temperance; which abstains from sin, tramples upon the world, seeks not vain delights. In Blessed are they that hunger, thou hast righteousness; for he who hungers suffers together with the hungry, and by suffering together with him gives to him, by giving becomes righteous, and his righteousness abideth for ever. In Blessed are they that weep now (Ps. 112:9.), thou hast prudence; which is to weep for the things of time, and to seek those which are eternal. In Blessed are ye when men hate you, thou hast fortitude; not that which deserves hatred for crime, but which suffers persecution for faith. For so thou wilt attain to the crown of suffering, if thou slightest the favour of men, and seekest that which is from God.
Temperance therefore brings with it a pure heart; righteousness, mercy; prudence, peace; fortitude, meekness. The virtues are so joined and linked to one another, that he who has one seems to have many; and the Saints have each one especial virtue, but the more abundant virtue has the richer reward. What hospitality in Abraham, what humility, but because he excelled in faith, he gained the preeminence above all others. To every one there are many rewards because many incentives to virtue, but that which is most abundant in a good action, has the most exceeding reward.
24. But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation.
25. Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep.
26. Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. Having said before that poverty for God’s sake is the cause of every good thing, and that hunger and weeping will not be without the reward of the saints, he goes on to denounce the opposite to these as the source of condemnation and punishment. But woe unto you rich, for ye have your consolation.
CHRYSOSTOM. For this expression, woe, is always said in the Scriptures to those who cannot escape from future punishment.
AMBROSE. But although in the abundance of wealth many are the allurements to crime, yet many also are the incitements to virtue. Although virtue requires no support, and the offering of the poor man is more commendable than the liberality of the rich, still it is not those who possess riches, but those who know not how to use them, that are condemned by the authority of the heavenly sentence. For as that poor man is more praiseworthy who gives without grudging, so is the rich man more guilty, who ought to return thanks for what he has received, and not to hide without using it the sum which was given him for the common good. It is not therefore the money, but the heart of the possessor which is in fault. And though there be no heavier punishment than to be preserving with anxious fear what is to serve for the advantage of successors, yet since the covetous desires are fed by a certain pleasure of amassing, they who have had their consolation in the present life, have lost an eternal reward. We may here however understand by the rich man the Jewish people, or the heretics, or at least the Pharisees, who, rejoicing in an abundance of words, and a kind of hereditary pride of eloquence, have overstepped the simplicity of true faith, and gained to themselves useless treasures.
BEDE. Woe to you that are full, for ye shall be hungry. That rich man clothed in purple was full, feasting sumptuously every day, but endured in hunger that dreadful “woe,” when from the finger of Lazarus, whom he had despised, he begged a drop of water.
BASIL. (Reg. fus. tract. 16–19.) Now it is plain that the rule of abstinence is necessary, because the Apostle mentions it among the fruits of the Spirit. (Gal. 5:23.) For the subjection of the body is by nothing so obtained as by abstinence, whereby, as it were a bridle, it becomes us to keep in check the fervour of youth. Abstinence then is the putting to death of sin, the extirpation of passions, the beginning of the spiritual life, blunting in itself the sting of temptations. But lest there should be any agreement with the enemies of God, we must accept every thing as the occasion requires, to shew, that to the pure all things are pure (Tit. 1:15.), by coming indeed to the necessaries of life, but abstaining altogether from those which conduce to pleasure. But since it is not possible that all should keep the same hours, or the same manner, or the same proportion, still let there be one purpose, never to wait to be filled, for fulness of stomach makes the body itself also unfit for its proper functions, sleepy, and inclined to what is hurtful.
BEDE. In another way. If those are happy who always hunger after the works of righteousness, they on the other hand are counted to be unhappy, who, pleasing themselves in their own desires, suffer no hunger after the true good. It follows, Woe to you who laugh, &c.
BASIL. (ut sup.) Whereas the Lord reproves those who laugh now, it is plain that there will never be a house of laughter to the faithful, especially since there is so great a multitude of those who die in sin for whom we must mourn. Excessive laughter is a sign of want of moderation, and the motion of an unrestrained spirit; but ever to express the feelings of our heart with a pleasantness of countenance is not unseemly.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. 6. in Matt.) But tell me, why art thou distracting and wasting thyself away with pleasures, who must stand before the awful judgment, and give account of all things done here?
BEDE. But because flattery being the very nurse of sin, like oil to the flames, is wont to minister fuel to those who are on fire with sin, he adds, Woe unto you when all men shall speak well of you.
CHRYSOSTOM. What is said here is not opposed to what our Lord says elsewhere, Let your light shine before men; (Matt. 5:16.) that is, that we should be eager to do good for the glory of God, not our own. For vain-glory is a baneful thing, and from hence springs iniquity, and despair, and avarice, the mother of evil. But if thou seekest to turn away from this, ever raise thy eyes to God, and be content with that glory which is from Him. For if in all things we must choose the more learned for judges, how dost thou trust to the many the decision of virtue, and not rather to Him, who before all others knoweth it, and can give and reward it, whose glory therefore if thou desirest, avoid the praise of men. For no one more excites our admiration than he who rejects glory. And if we do this, much more does the God of all. Be mindful then, that the glory of men quickly faileth, seeing in the course of time it is past into oblivion. It follows, For so did their fathers to the false prophets.
BEDE. By the false prophets are meant those, who to gain the favour of the multitude attempt to predict future events. The Lord on the mountain pronounces only the blessings of the good, but on the plain he describes also the “woe” of the wicked, because the yet uninstructed hearers must first be brought by terrors to good works, but the perfect need but be invited by rewards.
AMBROSE. And mark, that Matthew by rewards called the people to virtue and faith, but Luke also frightened them from their sins and iniquities by the denunciation of future punishment.
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Happy are those who trust in God
AGAPE BIBLE STUDY: In this poetic passage, the 6th-century BC prophet Jeremiah contrasts the arid and fruitless lives of those who trust only in themselves or other human beings with those who live spiritually nourished lives because they have faith in God to provide for them even in times of distress.
|THE CURSED who separate themselves from God||THE BLESSED who are in union with God|
|He trusts in other human beings||He places his trust in Yahweh|
|He rejects the spiritual in favor of the material||He places his hope in Yahweh|
|He is like a barren bush in the desert||He is like a tree planted beside life-giving water|
|His life is as barren and fruitless as a bush growing in unproductive ground||His life is fruitful like a tree that is continually nourished even in times of distress|
FR. AUSTIN FLEMING: Jeremiah writes of curses and blessings, making it clear that those who seek blessings need to plant themselves, their lives and their choices – near the waters of the Lord and his Word. And he makes equally clear that those who put their trust in human invention and in their own strength, may well find themselves parched and withered for having settled and rooted themselves apart from the cool streams of the Lord’s peace.
Has our history, with all its successes and failures, has our history shown us to be rooted in God and God’s ways or has the Church in serious ways sold itself out for the wrong reasons, at the expense of the innocent. What matters here is: where we choose to be planted, what waters we choose to drink, and in whose truth we choose to put down our roots.
SERMON WRITER: The desert shrub is a metaphor for a person living under harsh circumstances. Deserts are hot and arid. Some deserts are baking hot during the day and freezing cold at night. Survival under such conditions is difficult. Furthermore, desert shrubs are not very productive. How many desert shrubs produce abundant fruit, as do apple trees and orange trees? The person who places his/her ultimate trust in mere mortals can expect to live a marginal existence.
AGAPE BIBLE STUDY: In Jer 17:8, “heat” and “drought” represent the struggles every human being faces in a world full of sin, while “water” is a symbol of the Holy Spirit working in the lives of those who are in union with God, placing their hope and trust in Him. Even though the blessed one who trusts in God will encounter the same dangers others face, the power of God will sustain him in his struggles. He will continue to bear the spiritual fruit of righteousness that promises an ever “green” eternal reward from the waters of the “stream” of everlasting life.
SR.MARY MCGLONE: Jeremiah warns us that allowing anyone — pope, bishop, religious or lay — to represent the trustworthiness of Christianity and its Gospel is a first step toward blasphemy; it gives God’s authority to someone who is not God. Blind trust or unquestioning obedience gives to humans what belongs to God.
Ironically, to say “I won’t believe in the church because it has bad leadership,” is another way to “trust in human beings.” When we abandon the church on account of the sin of its leaders, we are defining church by its membership rather than by the God who continually calls it into being.
SERMON WRITER: These verses are similar to Psalm 1, which pronounces blessings on those whose “delight is in Yahweh’s law” (Ps 1:2). Such people “will be like a tree planted by the streams of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also does not wither. Whatever he does shall prosper” (Ps 1:3). “The wicked are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind drives away” (Ps 1:4). “Therefore the wicked shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For Yahweh knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked shall perish” (Ps 1:5-6).
SERMON WRITER: It is not a sin to trust people, but it is a sin to trust in people—to invest our deepest faith in another person and to derive our dearest hope from that person—to give that person the place in our hearts that rightfully belongs to God.
SERMON WRITER: The tree planted alongside water is a metaphor for a life lived under excellent conditions. Plants need water to survive. A tree planted alongside a body of water will always be able to find the water it needs to grow and produce fruit.
The tree planted near a lake or pond needs not be anxious about rain, because it gets its water from the nearby source. It continues to produce fruit because it is well-watered. This serves as a metaphor for those who trust in the Lord. It isn’t that they will experience no adversity—hardly! But they are rooted in their relationship to God—a relationship that nurtures them through adversity and keeps them from despair.
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Jesus addresses a large crowd in what is known as the Sermon on the Plain. It is similar to the much longer Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew (chapters 5—7); it contains Matthew’s eight beatitudes (or blessings) compressed into four. Modern scholars propose that the Gospel writers are relating different versions of the same speech. However, it is not unreasonable to conclude that Jesus repeated the same teachings several times over the course of his ministry, adapting it to his specific audience, as any good speaker will do. • Jesus seems to be generally directing his instruction to two groups: the poor and the rich. When Jesus speaks of “the poor” in verse 20, he is not primarily speaking of the materially poor, but of those who place all their confidence in God (Luke 11:28; Psalms 1:1-2). Conversely, when he speaks of “the rich,” he is speaking primarily to the unrighteous rich, who love and trust in their riches instead of God. • Along with the blessings pronounced in the Beatitudes, Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain also contains four “woes.” These woes are cries of impending distress, similar to those voiced by Old Testament prophets (see Isaiah 5:8-22; Amos 6:1-7; Habakkuk 2:6-20) as a warning to those who spurn the blessings of God and his Kingdom.
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1. Turn to the person next to you and share what verse in the Gospel caught your attention. The facilitator can decide which is more helpful: to share the next questions with the whole group, or to share in smaller groups of three or four.
2. What verse in today’s readings makes you feel most uncomfortable? What verse challenges you the most?
3. What would you name as blessings and curses in your life?
4. What are the things you hunger for the most? What is the deepest desire of your heart?
5. Name one thing today’s Gospel says to us that we disciples of Jesus need to heed and act on.
SOURCE: Commentaries on the Lectionary by Fr. Eamon Tobin (1947-2021), Used with Permission
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1. Read the beatitudes in Matthew (5:3-11) and in Luke (6:20-16). Compare the emphasis that each brings to these words of Jesus. How does Luke differ from Matthew in itemizing the values by which Jesus wants his disciples to live? Which of the two versions do you find easier to understand? Is Luke’s version of the teaching of Jesus easier to live up to? Why? Why does the Church need both versions?
2. Matthew has Jesus pronouncing the beatitudes on a mountaintop; in Luke, Jesus preaches this sermon on a plain or on the journey to Jerusalem. What is the particular significance of each? Would you rather be taught by Jesus who sits at the top of a mountain and hands down divine teaching like Moses from Mount Sinai? Or would you rather be taught by Jesus who is journeying with you toward the fulfillment of God’s purposes on the road to crucifixion and resurrection?
3. In what ways will we begin to share in God’s holiness when we begin to practice the virtues of the beatitudes? Jesus lived by these values and ideals. We begin to share in his holiness when we imitate his way of living. Evaluate what your friends think of these ideals for Christian behavior. Do they admire people who live like Jesus did? Or do they look down on such behaviors as weak and unproductive? What does this say about the values of our modern culture?