February 13, 2022
Revised Common Lectionary
1 Corinthians 15:12-20
Lectionary for Mass (RC)
Psalm 1:1-2, 3, 4, 6 (40:5a)
1 Corinthians 15:12, 16-20
Luke 6:17, 20-26
When I was a young child, I had this image of God as a bearded man in a top hat who hovered in the sky above. Your childhood image of God may not have included the top hat or the beard, but I’m guessing that most of us grew up thinking of God as “up there” somewhere, speaking down to us below.
The Hebrew Scriptures tend to support this view of a God who speaks from above, as when Moses brought God’s Law down from the mountain or when a voice from heaven was heard at the baptism and transfiguration of Jesus. Matthew’s version of the Beatitudes presents Jesus in the very same way as he goes up to deliver the Sermon on the Mount to those gathered below (Mt 5:1).
Luke offers a radically different view in the passage we hear today. No mountain climbing here; rather, Jesus comes down with his disciples to a level place to stand with those who were pressing in on him—a great multitude of people in need, eager to hear him or receive healing.
As he prepares to instruct his disciples—are you ready for this?—he looks up at them. Their attention is drawn not to a word from above, but to a word from below. The message that he is about to proclaim directs them toward a God who is revealed in the poor, the hungry, the sorrowing, and the outcast.
The Beatitudes that we read today from the Gospel of Luke resist any effort to sugar coat or explain them away, while the more familiar version found in Matthew 5 has often been spiritualized far beyond the obvious intent of the Gospel writer. In both Gospels, these sayings present a challenging view of God’s reign as identified with the lowly and marginalized, but Luke’s briefer and more direct version adds four woes that correspond to the four blessings:
- “Blessed are you who are poor” (6:20), and “Woe to you who are rich” (6:24).
- “Blessed are you who are hungry now” (6:21) and “Woe to you who are full now” (6:25).
- “Blessed are you who weep now” (6:21) and “Woe to you who are laughing now” (6:25).
- “Blessed are you when people exclude you” (6:22) and “Woe to you when all speak well of you” (6:26).
Jesus here makes good on the word that he delivered in his hometown synagogue—that he had been sent to bring “good news to the poor” (4:18). These Beatitudes echo a preferential option for the poor that permeates the entire Gospel of Luke, as when the young pregnant Mary sings praise to God who “has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly,” who has “filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty” (1:51-52).
During this time after Epiphany, the Scriptures proclaim the manifestation of God among us in various ways. In this Sunday’s Gospel reading we encounter a revelation that is quite different from the star that guided the magi, or the Spirit that descended on Jesus at his baptism, or the wedding feast at which he turned water into wine.
Instead of looking for another extraordinary sign, Jesus invites us today to bring our eyes down to earth—to come down with him to a level place where we will behold the image of God in those whom the world regards as of little worth. Can we hear God speaking through them and calling us to embrace an order in which the poor receive good news, where there is enough for everyone, and where all are valued?
A Hymn for Today: “Feliz la gente / How Blest the People”
The Lectionary-appointed psalm for this Sunday conveys the same spirit as the messages of today’s passages from both Jeremiah and Luke. Psalm 1 is a wisdom psalm that extols those who delight in God’s law and place all their trust in God—as opposed to those who follow the advice of the wicked. The former will thrive like trees planted near streams of water, while the latter will come to ruin, like chaff blown away by the wind.
This adaptation of Psalm 1 and the tune that accompanies it were created by Spanish composer Juan Antonio Espinosa. Although he has lived and worked primarily in Spain, he also lived for a time in Peru and Colombia. His compositions reflect both Spanish and Latin American cultural influences. Espinosa has expanded on the text of the psalm to create contemporary beatitudes that include concrete references to living justly in the world today. The English translation was created by Mary Louise Bringle, FHS.
Feliz la gente que no ha puesto su esperanza en el dinero,
ni se instala entre las cosas de esta vida,
ni se deja corromper, aunque le cueste. Refrain
Feliz será, feliz será, feliz será.
Feliz la gente que no inclina su frente al poderoso,
ni traiciona al compañero de trabajo,
ni renuncia a la lucha del presente. Refrain
Feliz la gente que no sigue los caprichos de la moda,
ni hace caso de anuncios engañosos,
ni se deja llevar por charlatanes. Refrain
Feliz la gente que no vende su inquietud ante amenazas,
ni claudica de su rumbo ya trazado,
ni se hunde en el silencio de los cómplices. Refrain
Feliz la gente que encamina sus pasos por tus sendas;
serán como un árbol grande y fuerte,
que da sombra y alegría al caminante. Refrain
How blest the people who refuse to put their faith and trust in money,
or to build their hopes and dreams on earthly treasures;
who resist evil and bribes, even when costly. Refrain
How blest they are, how blest they are, how blest they are.
How blest the people who will not bow down their head to those in power,
or betray their family, friends, or fellow workers;
who will not give up their bold struggles for justice. Refrain
How blest the people who disdain to live their lives as slaves of fashion,
or incline their ears to gossip or to scandal;
who are not swayed by deceit, lying, or scheming. Refrain
How blest the people who decline to sell their souls in spite of danger,
those whose course in times of trouble never wavers,
and whose voice, fearless and strong, will not be silenced. Refrain
How blest the people who direct their every step on holy pathways.
God will make them like a tree, green and majestic,
that gives shade and joyful rest to weary travelers. Refrain
Text: Juan A. Espinosa, b. 1940. English translation by Mary Louise Bringle, b. 1953. © 1990, Juan A. Espinosa, admin. OCP Publications. Used by permission under OneLicense #A-729857.
Image Credit: Irish Hunger Memorial, Battery Park City, New York, NY
“Word and Song: A Lectionary Reflection” is written by the Executive Director of The Hymn Society, Rev. Dr. Mike McMahon. For his full bio, click here and scroll down to the “staff” section.
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