What an audience Jesus has in today's Gospel! "A great crowd of his disciples and a large number of people from all over Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon." Disciples, pagans, and devout Jews gathered together to hear Jesus speak in the Sermon on the Mount. All of these people had something in common. God was someone to be bargained with, and if God liked you, you were rewarded with good fortune. This Sunday, Jesus tells us a different story. "Woe to you who are rich, who are filled now, who laugh when all speak well of you. Blessed are you who are poor, you who are now hungry, when people hate you and when they exclude you and insult you." Jesus completely flips the script on what it means to be blessed by God. What he proclaims as "woe" are states of life we often strive for, and "blessed" are the states we work hard to avoid!
Jesus is concerned with the kingdom of God and the world to come, not the typical structures of power and privilege. The word "now" appears often in these statements. Why? If you are well "now," that's beside the point. To be rich in this life has no direct bearing on your immortal soul. If you're struggling "now," that's not an indication that God has forgotten you or that - in light of eternity - you're worse off than someone else. In fact, it could be an indicator that you're enduring something that will bring you to a place of greater, eternal joy in the future.
This Sunday, consider your priorities. Who do we reject as not blessed, and thereby inflict woe upon ourselves? When we encounter difficult situations in our own lives, do we see them as opportunities to remember God and lean on His mercy and grace?
Live the Liturgy
Inspiration for the Week
Getting ahead in the world is something many see as important. Success, a comfortable life, and worldly securities are seen as what is needed to achieve happiness. Whether or not we like to admit it, these pursuits are operative in many of our lives. As much as we want to believe in the Gospel, we also find it hard not to cling to these other things. Unconditional trust in God must be first if we are going to perceive the kingdom of God. And while God does not want us to go out of our way to be miserable, Jesus clearly gives preference to those who are poor, hungry, weeping, marginalized, vulnerable, and despised. When people encounter these things, they touch God. It teaches us not to get too comfortable with our riches and that there is much more to true life than the stuff we find so important.
Gospel Meditation—February 24, 2019
7th Sunday in Ordinary Time
“Love your enemies…”
This Sunday, Jesus continues his challenging Sermon on the Mount. "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back." Words like these are challenging! Many of us have grown up in a culture of independence and retaliation against those who harm us. Today's Gospel reminds us that the way of the world is not necessarily the way of the disciple.
In many spiritual texts, saints describe the first stage of the spiritual life as mercenary love of God. That is, we love Him because he "pays" us with graces and good things. Consider for a moment, why do you do the good that you do? Take volunteering, for example. How often do we talk about the good feelings service evokes and how you "get so much more than you give." This is still based on an attitude of return on our investment. Would we volunteer if we knew it was good to do, but we didn't "feel" good afterward? What if the people we helped seemed ungrateful, or if someone at the food pantry stole $20 out of our purse? It can be difficult to love people when we think we might not get anything back. "For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?"
As Christians, we are called to imitate God. We follow a God who loves not only His closest friends, but who loves betrayers, deniers, and crucifiers. The Christian walk is one of perseverance and sacrifice. What does your love look like?
Live the Liturgy Inspiration for the Week
“Love your enemies and do good to those who hate you."
We do not like hearing these words, but they are at the heart of Jesus' teaching. When we are hurt, we want to get defensive and fight back. We prefer engaging in battle with something that is negative and evil rather than returning a heart of love. It is easy to love those who will love us back and much harder to love those who may not. But there is no credit to be found in simply surrounding ourselves with friends. Jesus wants to push us out of our comfort zones. We still find ourselves judging others and condemning them when the order of the Gospel is forgiveness and mercy. Why are we so unwilling to let go of the control? Perhaps the answer is found in a failure to love and an absence of faith.