09Sep September 9th Wednesday, Week 23

Feast of St Ciaran of Clonmacnoise (see below)

1st Reading: Colossians 3:1-11

You have been raised with Christ, so set your heart where Christ is

So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life. But now you must get rid of all such things — anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!

Gospel: Luke 6:20-26

Luke’s version of the Beatitudes: blessings and woes

Then Jesus looked up at his disciples and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.”Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.

“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. “Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. “Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep. “Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.


Saint Ciaran of Clonmacnoise, abbot.

Ciarán (or Kieran) was a 6th-century saint from County Roscommon (possibly 516-546) who studied under Saint Finian of Clonard before going on to be the founding abbot of Clonmacnoise on the river Shannon. He is sometimes called Ciarán the Younger to distinguish him from the other 6th-century Saint Ciarán who was bishop of Ossory. Clonmacnoise became a great centre of learning, remembered in Rolleston’s poem as: “In a quiet water’d land, a land of roses, stands Saint Kieran’s city fair; and the warriors of Erin in their famous generations slumber there.”

No lasting city

We have here no lasting city. In Luke’s version, the Beatitudes are significantly more starkly demanding and direct, as compared with Matthew’s longer list, which have a more theoretical and general flavour. In Matthew’s version, the Beatitudes are addressed less to the crowd than to the disciples who follow Jesus up the mountain, and they are phrased in the third person, “How blessed are the poor in spirit, for the reign of God is theirs.” Luke has Jesus coming down from the mountain to a level place where a large crowd of people came to hear him. His Beatitudes are probably closer to Jesus’ original words, phrased in the second person: Happy are you who are poor ; you who hunger, etc. Luke is not writing a general catechetical discourse but has Jesus specifically addressing people who are poor and hungry and in need. We are told, rather bluntly, that God accomplishes more with our poverty than with our wealth, more with our weakness than with our activity. Wealth, celebrity and exclusivity can restrict a person’s options and weigh one down with anxieties.

Other hints for living in a world that is passing away came in the reading from Colossians, one of Paul’s most stirring calls to living a spiritual life on earth, “Be intent on things above; put on the new person; formed anew in the image of the Creator.” He translates these ideals into practical examples: put an end to all fornication, uncleanness, evil desires, put aside anger, quick temper, malice, insults, foul language. stop lying to one another. But his main point always turns out to be unity and charity — the signs of living in Christ, who is “everything in all of you.


An alternative vision

These beatitudes sound strange to our ears. How can Jesus call happy people who are poor, hungry and in grief? How can he say that the rich and those who have their fill of everything are unfortunate? These ideas seem to go against common sense, and they jar with how we normally see life. That is true of a great deal of the teaching of Jesus. It forces us to rethink how we normally view life. Jesus proclaimed a God who wanted to show special favour to the distressed and vulnerable. This is why Jesus addresses this group as blessed, because God is with them and wants to change their situation. Our vulnerability creates an opening for God to work in our lives, whereas when all is well with us we can easily be self-satisfied and dispense with God. We know from our own experience that we often seek God with greater energy when our need is greater, whether it is our individual or communal need. We come before the Lord in our poverty, our hunger, our sadness because it is above all in those times that we realize that we are not self-sufficient. In Luke’s gospel, from which our reading is taken, as Jesus hung from the cross one of the criminals alongside him said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” To this poor, hungry, weeping man Jesus said, “today, you will be with me in paradise.” It is when we are at our weakest that the Lord’s transforming and life-giving presence is at its strongest. [Martin Hogan]

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