Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C – February 14, 2010 Scripture Readings First : Jeremiah 17:5-8. Second: 1 Corinthians 15: 12, 16-20.

Gospel: Luke 6:17, 20-26. Prepared by: Fr. Stephen Dominic Hayes, OP 1. Subject Matter

St. Matthew's eight Beatitudes are well-known; St. Luke's treatment of the same material is perhaps less so. Today we have his "Sermon on the Plain". After the pattern of the dramatic presentation by Moses in the book of Deuteronomy of a choice between life and death, blessing and curse, St. Luke against us for Beatitudes and four Woes, in which the eschatological justice of God presented, especially as he saves his beloved poor and marginalized. Through the voice of Saint Luke, Christ invites us once again to choose blessing and life, choosing to live in his saving word. St. Luke specifically and regularly joins the notion of hearing Jesus' words and healing; thus the life of the Beatitudes derives its power from the word of Christ, which brings health both physical and spiritual to the hearer of that word.

2. Exegetical Notes

The prophet Jeremiah writes a close link with Psalm 1 and a definition of justice together with a literary form of opposed blessings and curses which we also find in the Gospel for today. A comparison of the just man to living tree, as opposed to the bush in the desert gives us a clear vision of the real heart of authentic religion: God is our sole refuge and the source of all spiritual strength. This opposition of wisdom and the folly of trusting in human power is evidenced in many places in the Scripture. The reading from 1 Corinthians 15 is not directly connected to the theology of oppositions otherwise manifest in today's readings; it does however provide for us a concrete vision of what the reversal of this lies woefully existence will be in a concrete way, manifested after the pattern of our Lord's Easter resurrection. Paul says that Christ's resurrection represents the " first fruits" of all God's plan for all those doomed to die in this world. From a Jewish perspective, the "first fruits" solemnly offered to God symbolically devoted the whole artist to God (JBC 51:84); therefore, the resurrection of Christ involves a resurrection of all who are in him. And, consequently, the fact of the resurrection of the dead in Christ is that which colors and informs all Christian hopes.

Today's Gospel provides an interesting study in how Matthew and Luke handle the same material differently: Matthews's famous Sermon on the Mount ( Matthew 5-7)presents Jesus as a new Moses, and provides an extensive development of his teaching, the keynote of which the eight Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-11). Much of this teaching Luke will provide also, but in the course of his account of Jesus’ journeys through Galilee. Specifically, the handling of the Beatitudes material in Matthew have behind it of vision of Christ as a new Moses: he ascends the holy mountain as Moses did Sinai, and instead of bringing down the Ten Commandments, presents to his disciples the Eight Beatitudes which give a new direction to the Law of God lived from the heart under grace. The crowds who do not understand the law or grace mill about at the foot of the mountain as did the idolatrous Israelites in Exodus. They listen to Christ but do not heed or hear him- which is why Christ addresses his teaching to the Apostles. In Luke, on the other hand, Jesus descends after praying on the mountain to the plain where the crowd awaits him, and where he distinctly addresses both the disciples and the crowd. Luke's gospel is marked not only by attention to the presence of the Holy Spirit in Jesus, but to the healing presence of that spirit in his teaching (vv. 17-18). To hear Christ is to be healed; and the Holy Spirit who rests upon the Christ drives out the power of the evil spirits over those who hear him, and exorcises them of both physical and spiritual disease. Furthermore, the mission of Christ and Luke is particularly seen as addressed to the poor and marginalized; so Christ comes down to the plain, to their level, to meet them, speak the word to them, and heal them. Instead of Matthew' s eight Beatitudes, Luke presents four Beatitudes and four Woes. This is an ancient catechetical pattern which we find throughout the Old Testament, and in New Testament teaching such as the Didache and Thomas Aquinas Summa Theologiae in his treatment of the virtue of penance (S.T. III, Q.85.) In Luke, the "poor" are not spiritualized,; they are the authentically needy and marginalized, to whom Christ is sent to preach the Gospel. The pairing of Beatitudes and Woes present a pattern of divine reversal of the present evil situation, and represent the eschatological inbreaking of the power of God to rescue those in need, who are loved by him in a particular way. Christ will make visible this reversal by miraculously feeding the hungry (9:17), and prophesying rescue through the parable of Lazarus and the rich man (16:21). The "weeping" or "crying out" (Gk. klaioo) is associated in the prophets (LXX) as the response of the just to apostasy, or as a sign of repentance (e.g. Isaiah 22:4); similarly the use of the verb "to laugh " (Gk. gelaoo) is not in the LXX an expression of joy, but of derision. CCC 695: … The Spirit filled Christ and the power of the Spirit went out from him in his active healing and of saving. Finally, it was the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead. Now, fully established as "Christ" in his humanity victorious over death, Jesus pours out the Holy Spirit abundantly until "the saints" constitute-in their union with the humanity of the Son of God-that perfect man "to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ": "the whole Christ," in St. Augustine's expression. CCC 1427: Christ's call to conversion continues to resound in the lives of Christians. This second conversion is an uninterrupted task for the whole Church who, "clasping sinners to her bosom, [is] at once holy and always in need of purification, [and] follows constantly the path of penance and renewal." This endeavor of conversion is not just a human work. It is the movement of a "contrite heart," drawn and moved by grace to respond to the merciful love of God who loves us first.

3. References to the Catechism of the Catholic Church

CCC 1696: The way of Christ "leads to life"; a contrary way "leads to destruction." The Gospel parable of the two ways remains ever present in the catechesis of the Church; it shows the importance of moral decisions for our salvation: "there are two ways, the one of life, the other of death; but between the two, there is a great difference." CCC 2444: "The Church's love for the poor... is a part of her constant tradition." This love is inspired by the Gospel of the Beatitudes, of the poverty of Jesus, and of his concern for the poor. Love for the poor is even one of the motives for the duty of working so as to "be able to give to those in need." It extends not only to material poverty but also to the many forms of cultural and religious poverty. CCC 2546: "Blessed are the poor in spirit." The Beatitudes reveal an order of happiness and grace, of beauty and peace Jesus celebrates the joy of the poor, to whom the kingdom already belongs. …

4. Patristic Commentary

St. Ambrose of Milan (Exposition of the Gospel of Luke 5:46): But observe all things carefully, how He both ascends with His Apostles and descends to the multitude; for how could the multitude see Christ but in a lowly place. It follows him not to the lofty places, it ascends not the heights. Lastly, when He descends, He finds the sick, for in the high places there can be no sick. St. Ambrose of Milan (Exposition of the Gospel of Luke 5 ): 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 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. St. Cyril of Alexandria ( Catena Aurea): 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 Savior 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. St. John Chrysostom (Catena Aurea) : For this expression, woe, is always said in the Scriptures to those who cannot escape from future punishment. St. Basil the Great (On The Psalms 33): 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. Theophylact (Catena Aurea); By the false prophets are meant those, who to gain the favor 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. 5. Examples from the Saints and Other Exemplars

The Didache: There are two ways, one of life, and one of death. Between the two ways there is a great difference. Now, this is the way of life: "Bless those who curse you" and "pray for your enemies." St. Augustine of Hippo (Sermon 175.2): if you propose a choice between these two things, which is better, to laugh or to cry? Is there anybody who wouldn't prefer to laugh? Because repentance involves a beneficial sorrow, the Lord presented tears as a requirement and laughter as the resulting benefit. How? When he says in the Gospel, "Blessed are those who cry, because they shall laugh." So crying is a requirement, laughter the reward, of wisdom. He wrote laughter to be enjoyed. He did not mean howling with laughter but jumping for joy. For these readings, any of the numerous examples of the conversion of extraordinary sinners to saints is appropriate. From a Dominican context, the story of the martyrdom of St. Peter of Verona and the subsequent conversion of his murderer would be appropriate. Another clear example would be the martyrdom of St. Maria Goretti and the conversion of her murderer. A final example of clear conversion demonstrating the two paths, well known to all, is Peter's triple denial of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, followed by his triple profession of love by the shores of the Sea of Galilee (John 18:25-27; 21:15-19.)

• •

6. Quotes

Pope Benedict XVI (The Nature And Mission Of Theology, Adrian Walker, Tr., San Francisco: Ignatius press, 1995, pp 21-22.) : Christian exodus calls for a conversion which accepts the promise of Christ in its entirety and is prepared to lose its whole life to this promise. Conversion, then, also calls for going beyond self-reliance and for entrusting ourselves to the ministry, the sacrament in the community of the church, in which God enters my life as agent and frees it from its isolation. Along with faith, conversion entails losing oneself in love, which is a resurrection since it is a kind of dying. … In this manner Christ becomes the way-he himself, not just his word; and also in this way he truly becomes present "today" … Pope Benedict XVI (Daughter Zion , Meditations on the Church's Marian Belief, John M. McDermott, S. J.,Tr., ( San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1983. pp. 18-19.) In our modes of thought, fertility is a blessing, infertility is a curse. Yet here all is reversed; the infertile one turns out to be truly blessed, while the fertile one recedes into the ordinary or even has to struggle against the curse of repudiation, of being unloved. The theological implication of this overthrow of values becomes clear only gradually; from this St. Paul developed his theology of spiritual birth: the true son of Abraham is not the one who traces his physical origin to him, but the one who, in a new way beyond physical birth, has been conceived through the creative power of God's word of promise. .. God bends down to the humble, the powerless,

the rejected, and in this condescension the love of God, which truly saves, shines forth both Hanna and for Mary, in the remarkable phenomenon of the unblessed-blessed women. The mystery of the last place (Luke 14:10), the exchange between the first and the last place (Mark 10:31), the reversal of values in the Sermon on the Mount, the reversal of earthly values founded upon hybris, all of this is intimated. 7. Other Considerations

The notion of the “Two Paths” - the of life and death, of blessing and curse- is one of the most ancient catechetical forms. It can be seen in the contrast of the tree of life and the treated the knowledge of good and evil in the opening chapters of Genesis; of the contrast between the two women Wisdom and Folly in Proverbs 8, in the charge of Moses in Deuteronomy, as well as in the Didache quoted above. All of these citations insist on the existence of only two paths, spiritually speaking, in the universe: either one moves towards God or away from God, and there is no other path. This motion can be seen in the traditional understanding of not only Christian conversion, or the structure of the virtue of penance, which involves a movement in thought, word, and deed away from sin and towards God as its defining characteristic.

Recommended Resources Brown, Raymond E., S.S., Fitzmeyer, Joseph, S.J., and Murphy, Roland E., O. Carm. The Jerome Biblical Commentary. Two Vols. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1968. Cameron, Peter John, O.P., ed. Benedictus: Day by Day with Pope Benedict XVI. Yonkers, NY: Magnificat/Ignatius Press, 2006. Johnson, Luke Timothy. The Gospel of Luke. Sacra Pagina Series, Vol. 3: Daniel J Harrington, ed. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1991. Jurgens, William A. The Faith of the Early Fathers. 3 Vols. Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1979. Just, Arthur A., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. New Testament, Vol. III, Luke. Manlio Simonetti, ed. Downers Grove, IL : Intervarsity Press, (Institute of Classical Christian Studies), 2002. Thomas Aquinas, St. Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels Collected out of the Works of the Fathers Volume III- Pt. I: St. Luke.. Albany, N.Y.: Preserving Christian Publications, Inc., 2001.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful