Woes Blessings and Curses Sixth Sunday Ordinary Time Year C

       

Woes Blessings and Curses Sixth Sunday Ordinary Time Year C

Jeremiah 17:5-8 Psalm 1:1-2,3, 4, 6 1 Corinthians 15:12, 16-20 Luke 6:17, 20-26

            Today’s gospel passage from Luke can easily be misinterpreted if it is taken out of its context. Context is essential in interpreting Scriptural passages correctly. According, to the Catechism of the Catholic Churchthe interpretative context of Scripture is the Church, principally the Magisterium, living tradition, such as how Saints, Doctors and Fathers of the Church interpreted the passages, and Scripture itself.

         We will see that when we interpret today’s gospel passage in its context, especially in its Scriptural context, defined by Scripture that comes before the passage and Scripture that comes after the passage, we will then have a more accurate understanding of what is being taught by Jesus, what is being taught by the one living Word in the person of Jesus through the many written words of Sacred Scripture.

         First, as Brant Pitre points out, Luke’s passage on the Beatitudes ought to be interpreted in light of verses that come right before this passage and in light of Matthew’s gospel on the Beatitudes. Both Matthew and verses in Luke’s gospel passage seem to indicate that Matthew and Luke are describing a sermon Jesus gives on a mountain side. Luke indicates this in verse twelve of chapter six by describing Jesus as hiking up a hill to pray during the night. When the sun rises, Luke adds, Jesus then descends a bit to a level place, which likely is just a level place on the hill side since Matthew’s gospel describes Jesus as teaching beatitudes, as giving a sermon on a hill, sometimes translated as mountain, but the Judean mountains really are very small, so hills is probably a better translation. 

Luke clarifies where Jesus gave his sermon on the Beatitudes by identifying is on a flat place that was large enough for many people to hear Jesus. The peak of a hill, which is ideal for one person praying at night, is not a good location for people to gather and listen to someone teach. A flat place on a hill is a suitable place to be taught. And this is where Jesus chose to give his Beatitudes.[1]

While Luke’s account of the Sermon on the Mount condenses the eight Beatitudes that Matthew’s gospel provides, Luke also includes a description of Jesus’s teaching that Matthew omits. In his version of the Sermon on the Mount, Luke includes a section on “Woes” a section where Jesus warns people.

If we allow Scripture to interpret Scripture, then the warnings of Jesus will not be so mysterious to us. Taken out of their proper context, the woes may puzzle us. After all, points out Pitre, why is Jesus warning us from laughing, from being rich, and from being praised by others? Is humor, fun, wealth and praise somehow in themselves evil?[2]

It is clear that Jesus is not teaching this when we interpret the Sermon on the Mount in light of an Old Testament Sermon on the Mount that God gave through Moses and that Jesus fulfills as a new Moses, as a new law giver, as law in person. 

         Pointing to Deuteronomy chapter twenty-eight, Pitre reminds us that Moses also, like Jesus, taught blessings and curses. The Israelites were assured by God, speaking through Moses, that they would be blessed, if they obeyed God. In addition, God warned the Israelites that they would be punished, would be cursed if they disobey.

         In fulfillment of Moses, as a new Moses, as a new law giver, Jesus is also teaching blessings and warnings, in the context of obedience to God. Understood in this manner, the goodness or evilness of laughter, wealth, and praise is to be determined by their context. If we are laughing, or are wealthy, or are being praised in a way that is against love of God and neighbor then woe to us; we will be punished if we do not repent and convert from our evil ways. However, if the laughter, and the praise are in the context of proper love of God and neighbor then God rejoices with us as it states a few chapters later in Luke, Jesus, “rejoiced in the Holy Spirit (Luke 10:21 RSV).” 

         Today, may we examine our lives to see if laughter we experience, the goods we own, and the praise and corrections we receive are all experienced in their proper context of love of God and love of neighbor. If not, then woe to us; turn to Jesus and repent.

May God Bless You,

Father Peter

Carl Bloch [Public domain], “A 19th-century painting depicting the Sermon on the Mount, by Carl Bloch,” 


[1]Brant Pitre, “The Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year C),” catholicproductions.com.

[2]Brant Pitre, “The Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year C),” catholicproductions.com.

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