Gospel Lectio Divina, 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel Lectio Divina, 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time

By David Kilby

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Lk 6:17, 20-26

Jesus came down with the Twelve and stood on a stretch of level ground with a great crowd of his disciples and a large number of the people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon. And raising his eyes toward his disciples he said:

            “Blessed are you who are poor,

                       for the kingdom of God is yours.

            Blessed are you who are now hungry,

                        for you will be satisfied.

            Blessed are you who are now weeping,

                        for you will laugh.

            Blessed are you when people hate you,

                        and when they exclude and insult you,

                        and denounce your name as evil

                        on account of the Son of Man.

Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven. For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way.

            But woe to you who are rich,

                        for you have received your consolation.

            Woe to you who are filled now,

                        for you will be hungry.

            Woe to you who laugh now,

                        for you will grieve and weep.

            Woe to you when all speak well of you,

                        for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way.”


MEDITATE


“Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours.”

Through all the Beatitudes and their counterparts underneath in Luke’s version, Jesus is not celebrating bad feelings and situations while condemning good ones. He is warning those who take too much pleasure in this life, and comforting those who are going through great difficulties. Jesus is saying it is better to be miserable now and to be happy in heaven, than it is to be happy now and miserable for all eternity. Nonetheless, he is not shunning pleasure and happiness altogether. After all, there is great joy in living the Christian life here on earth. One can say it’s joy and not just happiness. It’s a deep, thorough understanding of truth, goodness, and beauty, and it’s filled with the hope of heaven; as opposed to the superficial happiness that comes with pursuing earthly riches and other forms of vanity. So it is fitting that Jesus’ first Beatitude talks about the poor. Riches in this life are like a chain that connect us to this world, and Jesus is telling us to cut that chain. Jesus is not blessing poverty, but he is comforting the poor because they may not have much else in this life to comfort them. He is telling them that the hardships they experience in this life are a blessing in disguise, because–as hard as they may be–they are not as bad as being slaves to the comforts of this world. The hardships can help them look to God for comfort, who can sustain us much better anyway. 

But there is more to this Beatitude. In Matthew’s version, he says “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” In saying it that way, it almost takes on a whole new meaning. Now we aren’t talking so much about monetary poverty, but spiritual poverty. I’ve often wondered what Jesus means by that, exactly. Many of the explanations I’ve heard simply don’t suffice. I now see that he is saying blessed are those who long for God, those who recognize the way this world fails to fulfill our innate yearning for spiritual solvency; because this world is so finite and ephemeral. Jesus is saying blessed are those who know they were made for something more, for they will receive something more: the kingdom of God. In understanding this Beatitude in this way, the others follow even more beautifully.

Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied.

Jesus may be talking about physical hunger, but he is much more likely talking about spiritual hunger. The Beatitudes cover spiritual matters, and this one continues the blessing from the previous Beatitude. Jesus is making connections between our physical appetites and our spiritual longings. In fact, one of the great teachings of the Church is that God gave us the physical universe so we may better understand the spiritual world. The universe, and our physical existence, is one great extended metaphor for the kingdom of God that awaits us. That is why Jesus is constantly saying, “The kingdom of God is like …” and then proceeds with a parable about some aspect of nature. Thus, he created food so we may know what it’s like to satisfy our hunger for not just food, but for a rich spiritual life as well. When we see that food and our hunger for it is a metaphor for better understanding our hunger for God, then God can satisfy that hunger with more of himself. Thirst is very closely related to hunger. Subsequently, when we connect our thirst for a drink with our thirst for God, we can see how we were made for him to fill our cup. On the cross, Jesus said, “I thirst”. Again, he may have been talking about actually being thirsty for something to drink, but the allegorical sense of Scripture says he thirsts for us and for his father in heaven.

“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man.”

This can at times be the hardest of the Beatitudes to keep and accept. One can willingly take a paycut if he believes he is working for a good cause. One can fast easily enough and endure some hunger if it means it will draw him closer to God. One can even weep for someone he loves, and feel he is doing the right thing. But to be hated by people seems to go against our very nature. We want to be liked. I want to be accepted among my peers, and if I am not I assume I am doing something wrong, not something right. Yet Jesus is saying, at least when it is him you are standing by, you are doing the right thing when people hate you because of it. What is more, he makes it the last Beatitude so it lingers in our mind, making us ponder it even more. What a treacherous road we must walk as Christians. We have to abandon even the desire to be esteemed by others, and at times even endure being hated. Yet still, we hang on because we hope and believe that what God has to offer is greater than anything this world has to offer, better than even the respect of other souls.

“But woe to you …”

Jesus is not condemning us. He is warning us. He is telling us the way his father designed the natural order, and giving us portents of what lies ahead if we don’t heed the laws that govern his creation. Seen in this light, Jesus is not a judge in this passage. He will be when he comes again. Justice demands it, and there would be no justice if he were not to come again to collect the debt of sin. But in the great woes he offers here, he is showing us how to avoid paying that debt. Jesus would later die for our sins, because ultimately we cannot pay that debt ourselves. But he will not pay that debt if we refuse his offer to pay it. He cannot, because doing so would contradict justice. He is a God of mercy first, but if we don’t accept his mercy we receive the just consequences. If we choose the pleasures of this world over him, we are choosing God’s justice over his mercy. It is hard to swallow these words, especially since they are the ones Jesus leaves us with this week. But in sending his son to warn us of the dangers that we face, God is being a good parent.

PRAY

Dear Heavenly Father,

How sweet your lessons are. As Jesus spoke in his Sermon on the Mount, it was like a father or older brother taking his son or younger brother on his lap and teaching him about the world. Thank you for the wisdom you gave us. No religion can compare to the gentle, yet still potent, messages you give us to help us live life to the fullest. I am filled with gratitude for your Beatitudes. They are a guiding light in the darkness, a fulfillment of the law you gave to Moses, the path to holiness given by the Way himself, who is also the truth and the life indeed. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

LISTEN

As I reflect on this Gospel passage, I picture the crowds listening to Jesus. My part is the same as theirs. If I am to put myself in the place of Jesus’ disciples, this episode is all about listening. Jesus is giving us wisdom that is from heaven itself. It is good to be quiet now, because contemplating the wisdom of God’s kingdom leaves me speechless. 

 

Kilby is a freelance writer from New Jersey and managing editor of Catholic World Report.

 

Glory to the Father The Son and The Holy Spirit