Homily for the 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C
Theme: The beatitudes and curses
By: Fr Jude Chijioke
Homily for Sunday February 13 2022
Readings: Jeremiah 17, 5-8; 1 Corinthians 15,12.16-20; Luke 6: 17.20-26
In our gospel reading today, unlike Matthew, Luke condenses the “Sermon on the Mount” into a much more essential text, centered on a dominant theme, that of love, and set “on a level ground”, after Jesus had “come down” from the mountain where he had spent the night in prayer and “called to himself the twelve to whom he had given the name Apostles” (6, 12-16). Today, the liturgy offers us the solemn opening of that speech, marked by the beatitudes and curses.
Luke’s originality is visible: the fourfold direct beatitude is replaced by four “woes!”. Jesus follows a literary model well known also in ancient prophecy. Today’s first reading proclaims a passage from Jeremiah articulated on a “Cursed is the man who trusts in man!”. And on an antithesis “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord!”. Isaiah in chapter 5 of his prophetic book collects six “Woes!” of extraordinary intensity and vehemence. The “beatitude” of the just was emphasized above all by the wise men of the Old Testament. The first verse of the Psalter sounds like this: “Blessed is the man who does not follow the counsel of the wicked …!
The series of “blessed” proposed by Jesus is apparently absurd. Indeed, if beatitude naturally involves joy, happiness, serenity, success, well-being, prosperity, how can we define the poor, the hungry, the afflicted and the persecuted as “blessed”? The provocation of Christ is evident. He does not want so much to exalt a social state that after all humiliates man and that he himself tried to heal during his earthly ministry. Instead, Jesus wants to show that listening to and welcoming the Kingdom of God takes place above all among the least and the humble because they have a free and available heart.
Most of the rich, the sated, the satisfied, the powerful are too full of themselves and of things to be unable to accommodate anything else; mostly, they do not know how to make the tree of the Kingdom of God and of love blossom on the too luxuriant grounds of their conscience. And this, on the other hand, is the capacity of the “poor of the Lord” who know how to welcome and give, listen and put into practice, believe and love. And this is a theme dear to Luke who in wealth, a symbol of every selfish possession and every proud power, sees the radical obstacle to access the Kingdom of God.
And what appears clearly in the sequence of “Woes!” where the rich, the sated, the pleasure-seekers and the triumphal pass by is delusion. They delude themselves of possessing everything, consolation, well-being, success, happiness. But instead, their heart is occupied only by things and by their omnipotent “I”. They find it impossible to get out of their well-protected shell; impossible to make room for the demanding Word of the Lord, impossible to strain from the bonds and dark forces of the idols that populate their inner self.
In the beatitudes and curses of Luke’s “Discourse on the plain” we are not faced with a noble social manifestation, but to the program of the Kingdom of God; it is not only a social choice but a total, existential, interior, and concrete choice, the one that Christ demands from all of us, his disciples.
Fr Jude Chijioke