11Sep 11 September. Tuesday, Week 23

1st Reading: 1 Corinthians (6:1-11)

A people saved by Jesus must be marked by love and respect

When one of you has a grievance against a brother, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, matters pertaining to this life! If then you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who are least esteemed by the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no man among you wise enough to decide between members of the brotherhood, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers?

To have lawsuits at all with one another is defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud, and that even your own brethren. Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor sexual perverts, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

Resp. Psalm (Ps 149)

R.: The Lord takes delight in his people

Sing to the Lord a new song
of praise in the assembly of the faithful.
Let Israel be glad in their maker,
let the children of Zion rejoice in their king. (R./)

Let them praise his name in the festive dance,
let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp.
For the Lord loves his people,
and he adorns the lowly with victory. (R./)

Let the faithful Rejoice in glory;
let them sing for joy upon their couches;
Let the high praises of God be in their throats.
This is the glory of all his faithful. Alleluia. (R./)

Gospel: Luke (6:12-19)

Jesus spends the night in prayer and then calls the twelve; he teaches and heals

During those days Jesus went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, and James, and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Simon, who was called the Zealot, and Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them.


Using shame to motivate the community

Some of the faults listed by St Paul are less serious than others, but all were disturbing the peace of the church in Corinth. The main problem was their disunity, compounded by the complacency they felt even when wronging one another, “You yourself injure and cheat your very own brother and sister.” He singles out the scandal of members taking their problems and disputes to secular law courts. Indignantly he adds, “I say this in an attempt to shame you.”

Paul tends to link the idea of darkness to a list of sins which he found or suspected in Corinth: fornication, idolatry, adultery, sodomy, thievery, miserliness, drunkenness, slander and the rest. Their main sin, in his view, is disunity and their willingness to offend one another, He singles out the scandal of mistrust and deceit in the Corinthian church, so that members feel obliged to take their problems and disputes to secular law courts. Indignantly, he expects more of baptised Christians.

Night can be a time of violence and death, as well as of rebirth and new awareness. At night some people lose their healthy inhibitions and self-control, and it can be dangerous to go anywhere near certain areas just as the bars are closing. But night can also be a time of profound, silent prayer. Jesus went out to the mountain to pray, spending the night in communion with God. Silent prayer of such intense surrender turns into a dynamic time of new life. “Even when you were dead in sin, God gave you new life in company with Christ.” After being restored by the night of prayer, at daybreak he called his disciples and selected twelve of them to be his apostles. Jesus proceeded to share his life by teaching and by healing all who came to him. “Power went out from him which cured all.”

Luke’s “Sermon on the Plain”

The familiar “Sermon on the Mount” that we know from Matthew 5-7 becomes in Luke’s hand the Sermon on the Plain (Lk 6:12-49) from which our Gospel readings will come over the next few days.
Luke introduces the Sermon with the appointment of the apostles. The number twelve reminds us of the twelve tribes of Israel. So the appointment of the twelve was a symbolic action pointing to the restoration of Israel. Then Jesus offers his blueprint for the faith and ideals to be lived in the renewed people of God.
Here are some thoughts about Sermon on the Plain (excerpts from Luke Wayne  on the Carmelite website)

The content and the context of Luke’s sermon are strikingly similar to the “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew chapters 5-7. Many commentators see these passages as reporting the same event, though others note how Jesus could preach similar material on more than one occasion, so that they could well be two similar sermons spoken at different times. But the fact that both Gospels place the discourse right before the healing of the centurion seems to give much greater weight to the view that they are originally the same sermon.

The different naming comes from the fact that Matthew 5:1 describes the setting by saying, “When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on the mountain,” (“Sermon on the mount”). Luke 6:17 locates the scene as, “Jesus came down with them and stood on a level place,” (thus “Sermon on the plain”). But Luke 6:12 has already said that they had been on a mountain, and thus Jesus coming down to a level place implies a hilly setting.

The Sermon on the Plain begins with a series of Beatitudes or statements of blessing. These blessings are all upon the sort of people one would tend to think least to be blessed, such as the hungry, the grieving, and those who are hated and treated ill (Luke 6:20-22). Such are told to be glad, indeed to “leap for joy,” not because the suffering itself is good, but because their reward will be great in heaven, with the encouraging reminder that the prophets themselves suffered these same things.

Luke reports these blessings more directly than Matthew does in the Sermon on the Mount (simply “you poor” rather than “the poor in spirit” and “you who hunger” rather than “those who hunger and thirst for justice,” for example). Luke also includes a contrasting list of woes on those who are well fed, laughing now, and spoken well of (Luke 6:24-26) which Matthew did not have. The overall thrust of the passage is the same. God’s blessing for those who follow Him will often mean suffering now, but glory and comfort in the Kingdom to come. Those who seek their comfort and pleasure in this life here and now may appear to be blessed, but in fact, they are to be pitied because in the age to come they will find nothing but weeping, suffering, and want.

Luke does not report Jesus’ interpretation of the law, as Matthew does in 5:17-37. He reports the Lord’s model prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) elsewhere in His gospel (Luke 11:1-4) rather than in this sermon. He does the same with Jesus’ teachings on money (Matthew 6:19-24; Luke 12:22-34) the example of asking, seeking, and knocking (Matthew 7:7-11; Luke 11:9-13) and several other such sections. Likewise, Luke reports Jesus using the example of the blind guiding the blind here (Luke 6:39), where Matthew does not, though Matthew’s gospel contains a similar teaching elsewhere (Matthew 15:14).

The Sermon on the Plain, like that on the Mount, proceeds from the Beatitudes to:

Jesus’ teaching on love and generous mercy toward enemies (Matthew 5:33-48; Luke 6:27-36).
His instructions on proper judgment (Matthew 7:1-2; Luke 6:37-38).
The example of the speck in your neighbor’s eye and the log in your own, (Matthew 7:3-5; Luke 6:41-42).
The analogy of the tree and the fruit (Matthew 7:15-20, Luke 6:43-45).
The warning about saying “Lord, Lord” and not doing what Jesus says (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46).
The closing illustration of the two foundations (Matthew 7:24-27, Luke 6:47-49).

Historically, the “Sermon on the Plain” has received less attention by commentators and theologians than the “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew. But Luke’s version of this sermon brings powerful insights that Matthew’s does not, and is just as striking a presentation of Christian ideals.  It has tremendous value on its own right, and in conjunction with the material in Matthew, helps us draw out a deeper and fuller understanding of Jesus’ words, which is certainly why the Spirit of God inspired the writing of both of these parallel passages.

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