Luke 6:17, 20-26
17 When Jesus had come down from the hill with the apostles, he stood on a level place with a large number of his disciples. A large crowd of people was there from all over Judea and from Jerusalem and from the coastal cities of Tyre and Sidon;
20 Jesus looked at his disciples and said, “Happy are you poor; the Kingdom of God is yours!
21 Happy are you who are hungry now; you will be filled! Happy are you who weep now; you will laugh!
22 Happy are you when people hate you, reject you, insult you, and say that you are evil, all because of the Son of Man!
23 Be glad when that happens, and dance for joy, because a great reward is kept for you in heaven. For their ancestors did the very same things to the prophets.
24 But how terrible for you who are rich now; you have had your easy life!
25 How terrible for you who are full now; you will go hungry!
How terrible for you who laugh now; you will mourn and weep!
26 How terrible when all people speak well of you; their ancestors said the very same things about the false prophets.”
Other readings: Jeremiah 17:5-8; Psalm 1:1-4, 6; 1 Corinthians 15:12, 16-20
Both Matthew and Luke’s Gospels record an account of Jesus’s ethical teaching. There are quite a few differences between the two reports. Matthew gives Jesus’s teaching on ‘‘real happiness’’ in nine statements – the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12). Luke uses the technique of contrast to emphasise the points and reduces the number of different situations that Jesus says bring blessing from nine to four.
Now to the heart of Jesus’s teaching. He teaches that the four situations of poverty, hunger, weeping and rejection become sources of blessing because of him. Jesus gives a completely new perspective on life and offers hope and comfort to everyone in these circumstances. Our human nature is to try to avoid these things but Jesus warns that it is their opposites – wealth, gluttony, gloating and a ‘‘good’’ reputation – that can be our ruin.
Perhaps the truth is written so clearly that we can’t see it. These four times of difficulty can bring us into total dependence on God, where our focus is completely on him. But in times of plenty it is much too easy to see ourselves and our possessions as the source of our happiness instead of pleasing God.
Jesus knows otherwise and wants us to grasp the fact that God himself is our only guarantee of happiness and security.
What do you think about Jesus’s teaching in these verses? What strikes you most? Consider Matthew 6:33: ‘‘… be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God and what he requires of you …’’ How can we ensure that, whatever our circumstances, our top priority is always serving God and doing what he tells us to do? Think about the image of a tree planted by water in Jeremiah 17 and Psalm 1. In what ways are you putting your roots down deep into God?
Pray the words of today’s responsorial verse ‘‘Happy are those who trust the Lord …’’ (Psalm 40:4). Ask the Holy Spirit to gently reveal any areas of your life where you need to trust God more or change your priorities. To build up your own trust try keeping a prayer notebook. Jot down your prayers each day. And then take a few minutes each week to add a comment beside each prayer as you see them answered. This is a real faith and trust builder.
Consider the example we have in Jesus. He single-mindedly listened to his Father and followed his plan. Think about some of the ways God demonstrated his faithfulness to people in the Bible. Now think about the times God has been faithful to you personally.
Lectio Divina is an ancient tradition of reading and engaging with God’s Word. These outlines for the Sunday Gospel readings are published by the Bible Society. Download at Biblesociety.org.uk/lectio. © 2008 United Bible Societies. Bible text Good News Translation, second edition © 1992 American Bible Society, New York