When Empty Is Full

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Daily Reflection – 9/9/2020

Sacred Scripture

Raising his eyes toward his disciples Jesus said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours. Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven. For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way. But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. But woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep. Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way.” ( Luke 6:20-26)

Reflection

Our Gospel passage today is often referred to as the Sermon on the Plain. The beatitudes preached by Jesus are not only different in locale but different than in Matthew’s report of the beatitudes.

Luke’s version is more direct than Matthew: no mention of “poor in spirit” here; it is the poor who are blessed. No hungering for righteousness; it is those who are hungry who will be filled. The addition of corresponding woes further highlights the notion of a future of blessedness which awaits Jesus’ disciples. In Luke, the sermon is preached to the disciples, not the crowd as a whole, thus placing added emphasis on Luke’s concern with the theme of discipleship, its requirements and its rewards.

It’s the very nature of discipleship that is so central to this teaching. As we read this Gospel, the Beatitudes jar our sensibilities. Those who are poor, hungry, weeping, or persecuted are called blessed. This is, indeed, a Gospel of reversals. Those often thought to have been forgotten by God are called blessed. In the list of “woes,” those whom we might ordinarily describe as blessed by God are warned about their peril. Riches, possessions, laughter, reputation . . . these are not things that we can depend upon as sources of eternal happiness. They not only fail to deliver on their promise; our misplaced trust in them will lead to our demise. The ultimate peril is in misidentifying the source of our eternal happiness.

Jesus’ way of happiness, however, demands a transformation from within — a conversion of heart and mind which can only come about through the gift of the Holy Spirit. How can one possibly find happiness in poverty, hunger, mourning, and persecution? If we want to be filled with the joy and happiness of heaven, then we must empty ourselves of all that would shut God out of our hearts. Poverty of spirit finds ample room and joy in possessing God alone as the greatest treasure possible. Hunger of the spirit seeks nourishment and strength in God’s word and Spirit. Sorrow and mourning over wasted life and sin leads to joyful freedom from the burden of guilt and oppression. God reveals to the humble of heart the true source of abundant life and happiness. If we want to be filled with the joy and happiness of heaven, then we must empty ourselves from all that would shut God out of our hearts.

The Beatitudes are often described as a framework for Christian living. Our vocation as Christians is not to be first in this world, but rather to be first in the eyes of God. Today’s scripture challenges us to examine our life in the context of our ultimate horizon, the Kingdom of God. The true question each of us must face is just that . . . Do we live our life to be first in the word or first in the eyes of God?

Prayer of The Day

“Lord, increase my hunger for you and show me the way that leads to everlasting happiness and peace. May I desire you above all else and find perfect joy in doing your will.”

Daily Note

Today’s  Gospel invites us to place our trust in God, to see wealth not in terms of goods or cash, but in terms of love and relationship. The things we crave cannot guarantee personal happiness but that one thing we absolutely need, Christ, can and does. We increase our wealth and our happiness in the very recognition of that.

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