In today’s Gospel reading, we see Jesus preaching to His disciples the seminal Sermon on the Plains. In the preceding verses, Jesus goes up to the mountain to pray, and summons His disciples to join Him on the mountain (Luke 6:12). There, He chooses twelve men of diverse backgrounds to become the Apostles (Luke 6:13-16). Apostle is a Greek word meaning “one who is sent”, but it also carries the connotation of being “authorised as a messenger”. When the twelve disciples were appointed as apostles, the emphasis would be on the one who is sending them. Do you hear the calling of Jesus to be His disciple? Have you answered Jesus’ calling?
After appointing the Apostles, Jesus then descended from the mountain to a plain where a large crowd of His disciples and a great number of people from all over Judea, Jerusalem and the coastal regions around Tyre and Sidon were gathered (Luke 6:17). There, He preached to them the Beatitudes, a counter-cultural message of how to live a good Christian life so ahead of its time that it continues to go against what our present society preaches.
The Beatitudes are also found in Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 5:1-7, 11), in what is often referred to as the Sermon on the Mount. Mountains are meeting places where God reveals Himself to man (recall Moses and the Ten Commandments). Mountains thus symbolise closeness to God. When Jesus preaches from the mountaintop, the impression given is that He speaks with the authority and voice of God.
In Luke’s Gospel, however, Jesus descended from the mountain and preached the Beatitudes on level ground, among the very people he was teaching. This gives us another dimension to Jesus’s authority, as Emmanuel – God is with us. Do you feel the presence of God in your daily life? Do you lift all things up to God?
The Sermon on the Plains is addressed to all of us who are Jesus’s disciples (Luke 6:20). The Beatitudes introduce us to Jesus’s ministry and give us an idea of what to expect as we are sent out to preach His message of Love. The Beatitudes etymology can be traced to the the first word in Latin, beati, which means “state of blessedness”, the Gospel describes a state of “supreme happiness” for those who are poor, hungry, weeping, hated and ostracised. The Greek word used is makarios which signifies a blessing on the obedient who receive the grace of God. In English, this is translated to blessed. All these definitions do little to explain how being poor, hungry, weeping, hated and ostracized is a blessing, but we do not see as God sees (1 Samuel 16:7), so we must trust in His wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:25).
God has come to save the weak and marginalised. The infant Jesus appeared first to the outcast shepherds (Luke 2:8-16) and the Magi/Gentiles (Matthew 2:1-11), not the priests and scribes as He “came to call not the upright, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). In a similar way, the Beatitudes run counter to our normal sensibilities or the wisdom of the world. When we suffer poverty, hunger, mourning, persecution in His name, we are blessed. And we will suffer these things, my brothers and sisters in Christ, by living a good Christian life, by preaching God’s message of love in our actions, for the world will hate and reject us (John 1:14). God consoles us in the Beatitudes – truly, we can live secure knowing that we live – right now – in the Kingdom of God when we suffer these things in His name
“Abraham said, “My son, remember that during your life you had your fill of good things, just as Lazarus his fill of bad. Now he is being comforted here while you are in agony.” (Luke 16:25)
Similar to the reversal of fortunes as told in the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), we are warned of the perils of following the world. The blessings of the world are their own consolation. If we fill ourselves only with the good things of this world and neglect the one true source of joy, we doom ourselves to an eternity of agony when we are called to give an account of our lives to the Lord (Romans 14:12). At the end of days, what kind of life will you have led? Will you be able to say that you have lived a life of righteousness in the sight of God?
As Christians, we are called not to be first in this world, but to be first in the eyes of God, for we “do not belong to the world” (John 17:16), we belong to God. We need to examine our current relationship with God and with each other, always keeping in mind the ultimate goal – the Kingdom of God. All of us are journeying towards our Father in Heaven. How about we, through our love, build the Kingdom of God right here on earth?
With hearts full of gratitude,
Terry and Faith
Questions for Reflection
Do you hear the calling of Jesus to be His disciple? Have you answered Jesus’ calling?
Do you feel the presence of God in your daily life? Do you lift all things up to God?
At the end of days, what kind of life will you have led? Will you be able to say that you have lived a life of righteousness in the sight of God?
All of us are journeying towards our Father in Heaven. How about we, through our love, build the Kingdom of God right here on earth?