12Sep 12 September. Wednesday, Week 23

1st Reading: 1 Corinthians (7:25-31)

We are free to marry or not to marry, in this world that is passing away

Concerning the unmarried, I have no command of the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. I think that in view of the present distress it is well for a person to remain as he is. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek marriage. But if you marry, you do not sin, and if a girl marries she does not sin. Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that. I mean, brethren, the appointed time has grown very short; from now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the form of this world is passing away.

Resp. Psalm (Ps 45)

R.: Listen, o daughter, give ear to my words

Listen, o daughter, give ear to my words
forget your people and your father’s house.
So shall the king desire your beauty;
for he is your lord, and you must worship him. (R./)

All glorious is the king’s daughter as she enters;
her raiment is threaded with spun gold.
In embroidered apparel she is borne in to the king;
behind her the virgins of her train are brought to you. (R./)

They are borne in with gladness and joy;
they enter the palace of the king.
The place of your fathers your sons shall have;
you shall make them princes through all the land. (R./)

Gospel: Luke (6:20-26)

The Beatitudes of Jesus, here spoken on “level ground” to a large crowd

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.”

BIBLE

No Lasting City

We have here no lasting city. The directness of Luke’s Beatitudes (“Blessed are you who..”) is notable when compared with Matthew’s more abstract version (“Blessed are they who…”). In Luke, Jesus addresses the crowds directly “You, who are poor” etc. In Matthew his words are to his disciples who alone follow Jesus up the mountain, and  the beatitudes are phrased abstractly (about “the poor in spirit, the meek etc.) Also, Luke has Jesus coming down the mountain to speak on a level place where a large crowd of people are gathered.

Luke’s Beatitudes may be closer to Jesus’ original words, phrased in the second person: “You who hunger; you shall be filled” etc. Jesus’ words are not a broad catechetical discourse but specifically and immediately address “you who are poor” and “you who hunger.” It seems that God accomplishes more with our poverty than with our wealth, more with our faith than with our activity. The poor and needy have an easier access to God. Wealth and status can close our hearts or even weigh us down with anxieties.

Paul admits that on the matter of celibacy he has no command from the Lord, but offers personal reflections on the available options. He advises people not to rush into marriage; but neither should they opt for a single life merely to avoid responsibility. And whether married or single, one should not be too possessive. Spouses are not related to each other as owners of the other but as believers, united in the Lord. This union transcends differences of gender and underpins their radical equality and dignity.


Unrealistic and beyond reach?

The beatitudes sound strange to our ears. How can the poor hungry mourners be blessed and happy, and the rich who have their fill of everything be called unfortunate? Those sentiments clash with common sense, 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 cares specially for the distressed and vulnerable. This is why he calls this group blessed, because God is with them and wants to change their situation.

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 feel we can do without God. From our own experience we know that we 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 in need. Much later, as Jesus hung from the cross one of the two executed along with 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.” When we are at our weakest, the Lord’s life-giving presence is at its strongest.


CANDLE

(Saint Ailbe, bishop)

Ailbe (Latin: Albeus), also known as Saint Elvis, was a 6th-century Irish bishop (d. 528), who is also associated with early medieval Wales, particularly Saint David, whom he was credited with baptizing. He founded a monastery at Emly and is the patron saint of Cashel and Emly.


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