11Sep 11 September, 2019. Wednesday of Week 23

1st Reading: Colossians 3:1-11

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

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!

Responsorial: Psalm 144:2-3, 10-13)

Response: The Lord is compassionate to all his creatures.

I will bless you day after day
and praise your name for ever.
The Lord is great, highly to be praised,
his greatness cannot be measured. (R./)

All your creatures shall thank you, O Lord,
and your friends shall repeat their blessing.
They shall speak of the glory of your reign
and declare your might, O God. (R./)

To make known to men your mighty deeds
and the glorious splendour of your reign.
Yours is an everlasting kingdom;
your rule lasts from age to age. (R./)

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.”


The things that are above

We are pilgrims in this world, who have here no lasting city. This is the thought in Colossians, a stirring call to live as pilgrims on the earth, Paul urges us to “Be intent on the things above” and to be “formed anew in the image of the Creator.” He offers practical examples of what is needed: put an end to fornication, uncleanness, evil desires; put aside anger, quick temper, malice and foul language; don’t tell lies. But the positive goals are unity and charity, signs of our union with Christ, who is “everything in all of you.”

The Beatitudes, in Luke’s version, are significantly more stark and direct than Matthew’s longer list. In Matthew’s version, the Beatitudes are addressed to the disciples who followed 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.

A counter-cultural vision

The beatitudes sound strange to our ears. How can people be happy if they are poor, hungry or in mourning? How can people who have their fill of everything be called unfortunate? These pronouncements go against  how we normally see life. How often the teaching of Jesus forces us to rethink how we normally view life. He proclaimed a God who specially favours the distressed and the downtrodden. Jesus calls them blessed, because God is on their side and wants a more just and sharing world. Knowing our need can open up space for God to work in our lives, whereas in time of plenty we can easily be self-satisfied and dispense with God.

People often seek God with greater energy when their need is greater, whether individually or in society. We come before the Lord in our poverty, our hunger, our sadness because in such times we realize that we are not self-sufficient. It is recorded that as Jesus hung from the cross one of the two thieves asked him, “remember me when you come into your kingdom.” To this doomed man Jesus said, “today, you will be with me in paradise.” It is when we are at our weakest that grace is at its strongest.

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