“The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”
Remember in St. Luke’s Gospel: this is Jesus’ mission statement: who he is and what he stands for. It is so clearly exemplified in Luke’s Parable of the Good Samaritan which will hear later this year. This is Jesus’ mission of mercy — and he invites us, his disciples, to “follow me.” – that is, he wants his mission to become ours.
One excuse we might give for declining Jesus’ invitation – is that we don’t feel worthy enough or qualified enough to follow him. Hopefully we did a good job of de-bunking that excuse last week —
for when the grace of God is at work within us — all things become possible. We can join the long list of the most unlikely people God chooses to do great things: because it isn’t the equipped that are called – it is the called that are equipped.
Just like in our day – Jesus faced people with a radical choice: to live by the values of the world (the pursuit of money, pleasure, popularity, power, prestige) OR to live by the values of the Kingdom of God —
which he clearly continues to lay out for us today: poverty of spirit, cleanness of heart, capacity to show mercy, and the ability to suffer in the cause of right. .
Today we begin reading what is known as St. Luke’s “Sermon on the Plain” which continues for the next couple of weeks – until we begin the season of Lent. We are often cheated out of hearing these readings every three years – because by now, we have usually started Lent: it has been nine years since we have heard these particular readings. . .
So over the next couple of weeks – we hear some radical stuff – love your enemies, pray for those who mistreat you. Stop judging and you will not be judged. >>
Don’t complain about the splinter in your neighbor’s eye all the while having a plank in your own. All coming down to the choice we can freely make: building the house of our lives on the solid rock of Christ – or the shifting sands of the world. . .
Like St. Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount – because Matthew says: “when Jesus saw the crowds he went up the mountain and began to teach them” – St. Luke’s Sermon on the Plain – because Luke says: “Jesus came down with the Twelve and stood on a stretch of level ground” —– both begin with a version of the Beatitudes.
But there are differences.
Where Matthew has eight Beatitudes, Luke has only four – which he contrasts with four WOES: which is keeping with his uncompromising style when it comes to following Jesus – the language of Luke is always much more direct and hard-hitting.
Matthew’s Beatitudes propose a set of attitudes which reflect the spirit of the Kingdom – qualities to be found in the truly Christian and human life.
Luke, on the other hand, speaks of material conditions in this life which will be overturned – much like we hear in Mary’s Magnificat – found only in Luke’s Gospel: “God has shown might with his arm – dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.
He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly.”
Again, Luke’s Gospel is known as the Gospel of Mercy. . . which Pope Francis said is essential in living the Christian life – -because it not only allows us to understand ourselves and God better – but it also prompts us to recognize and help those in need.
Mercy, the Holy Father says, “makes us understand that violence, resentment and revenge have no place in our Christian lives, and the first victim is whoever lives these sentiments – because it deprives them of their own human dignity.”
Additionally, mercy allows us to open the door of our hearts and draw close to those who are “alone and marginalized, recognizing those in need and finding the right words to say to comfort them.”
Luke, in his Gospel of Mercy, gives us many stories that are found only in his Gospel to illustrate his radical ideas:
The sinful woman who bathes the feet of Jesus (7:36-50)
As we already know — the parable of the Good Samaritan (10:29-37)
The parables of the lost sheep, lost coin and the lost or prodigal son (15:1-32)
The parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector at prayer (18:9-14)
The call of the tax collector Zacchaeus (19:1-10)
Jesus’ prayer on the cross for the forgiveness of his executioners (23:34)
And Jesus’ words of mercy to the “good thief” (23:39-43) “today you will be with me in paradise.”
All show that no one is outside of the possibility of salvation — offered by Jesus.
I think St. Luke wants to accomplish a couple of things by his radical nature –
1st he wants us to know that there is a cost in following Jesus – being a Christian will not make us popular people – because we are living our lives by a different set of values than everyone else may be living theirs.
2nd – that the choice of following Jesus is not something we make once – and then are finished with – but the choice to follow Jesus requires a commitment from us every day — to seek out the lost and the brokenhearted and those wanting to be healed or those hungering for forgiveness.
And that 3rd – both of these require our full attention – and not just our passing thoughts from time to time as we keep ourselves focused on something else.
Radical thinking – more precisely – radical being and radical acting. So are we going to commit or not? Or do we now have the excuse we have been looking for – not following Jesus – because we don’t want to go where he leads? But if we are unwilling to go where our leader, our Good Shepherd wants to lead us — we cannot call ourselves a Christian!!!!!!
Blessed are you who are poor.
Blessed are you who are hungry.
Blessed are you who are weeping.
Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, and denounce your name as evil – simply because——— you follow after me. . .