6th Sunday C
Sunday 13th February 2022
The Gospel Paraphrased
There are many fine translations of the Gospels readily available. This paraphrase is not meant to replace them. Rather the intention here is to offer a more contemporary rendering so that you can imaginatively translate the Gospel in your own situation.
This Sunday's Gospel Paraphrased
After spending a night of prayer on the mountain, Jesus chose and appointed his twelve apostles. Descending the mountain with them, he came to level place and was surrounded by a huge number of disciples and a vast crowd from all over Judea and from Jerusalem, as well as the maritime region of Tyre and Sidon. These people came to hear him, be cured of many diseases and of the evil spirits that tormented them. The entire crowd strove to touch him as power came out of him and healed them. And Jesus lifting his eyes to his disciples said,
‘Happy are the poor for to you belongs the Kingdom of God.
Happy are those who hunger now, you will be satisfied.
Happy are those who mourn now, you will laugh.
Happy are you when people hate you, treat you harshly, reproach you and vilify you on account of the Son of Man. On that day, you should exult and dance for joy! Your reward in heaven will be outstanding for this was how the prophets were treated in the past. Alas, you who are rich, you have already had your consolation.
Alas, you who are satiated now, you will hunger.
Alas, you who laugh now, you will mourn and lament. Alas you who are praised and feted, for this was the way your ancestors treated the false prophets.
The Psalms are the ancient prayers of the Jewish people, here paraphrased into contemporary language.
This Sunday's Psalm
Ps 1:1, 4-6
Happy are those who do not follow the counsels of the sinful,
nor not stand with the wicked,
nor keep company with mockers
but rather take their delight in the Law of God,
pondering it night and day.
They are like a tree planted by a steady stream,
yielding its fruit at the proper time,
its leaves never failing.
All that they do will prosper.
Not so the wicked, not at all so.
They are like rubbish blown away by the wind.
God knows the ways of the righteous.
The ways of the wicked led to destruction.
Words cannot contain our desire for God but they help direct our minds and hearts towards God's love and express our needs.
This Sunday's Prayer
Loving God, the wisdom of your Spirit hovers over our lives at all times, working always for our good. Too often we miss the vision of your love. As we ponder the mystery of the Beatitudes of Jesus, may our hearts, minds and spirits be open to his Presence within us and may our lives radiate his love. We ask this in Jesus’ name confident that you will hear us.
The Commentaries Summarised
As a Church we are in a web of wisdom that comes to us both from tradition and contemporary writers. This section offers a summary of some commentaries on the Gospel. Also below is a list of the books and articles that have been consulted in compiling this Sunday's "Pray As You Can" and which could be used for further reading.
This Sunday's Commentary
This Sunday’s Gospel is the beginning of Luke’s ‘Sermon on the Plain’. The parallel in Matthew’s Gospel is the ‘Sermon on the Mount.’ Some material in these sermons is similar and, as so often in the Gospels, the differences yield a rich vein of reflection. For Matthew, the Sermon occurs relatively early in Jesus’ ministry while Luke has Jesus give the Sermon only after has consolidated his ministry.
After spending a night of prayer on the mountain, Jesus chose and appointed twelve apostles. He then travels down to a flat area, where a vast and various multitude gather to be healed and to hear him. But it is not to them that these initial words are addressed. Rather, Luke pointedly makes clear that Jesus is preaching directly to his disciples. Commentators hold that Luke wrote these words for the early Christians who were experiencing alienation and persecution for their new faith. His Beatitudes are short, sharp and very concrete. Unlike Matthew’s Beatitudes, they do not lend themselves to being easily ‘spiritualised’. The poor are just that: poor people doing it tough, not people ‘poor in spirit’.
While Matthew has eight Beatitudes, Luke has four, as well as four ‘woes’. The Beatitudes are addressed to disciples who are poor, hungry, mourning and reviled, while the ‘woes’ are addressed to those who are having a good time in life. These are terrifying sentences because Jesus does not say these wealthy, satiated and laughing people have done anything wrong, rather one must presume that their failure was to be insensitive the needy.
Christian conversion is promoted by conversation. This section is a response to and a development on the knowledge gained from the commentary section.
This Sunday's Exposition
What is, is. That simple statement sums up the true nature of ‘prophecy’. Foretelling events is just a side effect of telling things as they are. In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus infers that the poor, hungry and mourning who look to God for their salvation are prophets: they understand the true nature of reality. Those who are rich, satiated and always laughing fail to recognise their need for God, and become those who persecute the truth-speakers.
Is this true? I think so. In our society, those who defend the unborn are ridiculed and even vilified. The mind boggles as to how any intelligent person viewing even basic knowledge about life soon after conception could dismiss these wondrous living being as a ‘few cells’ or foreign bodies. Those who call out the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers in this country’s detention centres are dismissed as bleeding hearts who don’t understand the reality of things. Seriously, no human being deserves to live under the conditions in these camps. And the billions spent making those conditions makes a mockery of the economics of such policies.
In our families, workplaces and communities, we sometimes collude in unjust or even ‘wacky’ behaviour because we fail to take the time and space to ask that basic question, ‘What is happening here?’ If you want to find out just what is happening, try to look at the situation or events from the position of the poorest, weakest and most unjustly treated. And if these people trust and hope in God, we will find that they have been blessed: they are the prophets sent to us. They will tell it to us just as it is.
Reflection is an essential element of our growth in Christ. As we reflect over what we have learnt and ponder it in our hearts, we come to recognise the presence of God in our lives.
This Sunday's Reflection
Life can turn on sixpence. The poor, those who mourn, those who hunger, too often have ended up in such a state because of a run of situations that turned out badly. Frequently, with such people, their bad luck compounds more bad luck and they can feel that they will never overcome their situation. To believe and to hope in such situations is itself a blessing, because real change can only take place if one believes that it really is possible. For the down-trodden, to believe that God is with them, working through their difficult situation is the best of blessings.
Those who are rich, satiated and laughing their way through life are in a real danger of being blind to their need of God. Even if they don’t feel it, their situation is critical as they see no need to change.
For us who are Christians, radical transformative change is at the heart of our faith which centres on the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Here, the holy, all-powerful Son of God entered into the depths of human misery and neediness and transformed these into path to the fullness of God’s love and life. And that is the path we each have to tread to come to the fullness of joy we all so desire. We have to turn from our tendency to protect ourselves from pain and discomfort by mindless distractions and embrace the neediness to opens us to God.
Looking at art works or movies is a great way to open ourselves to the meaning of the Gospels. Seeing can bypass our preconceived notions, giving us new vistas of enlightenment. With painting or sculpture one needs to sit quietly and absorb the dynamics of the piece. The drama of movies more easily engages us and offers a way to conversation about the Gospel with other members of your family.
This Sunday's Visual Meditation
- The Sermon on the Mount by Pietro Annigoni(click red text)
In this picture by the Italian artist Pietro Annigoni (1910-1988) we do not have the idyllic pastoral scene of many other representations of the Sermon on the Mount. Rather we have crowd hugging the sides of an inhospitable mountain. Men and women: the lame, the weak, the distressed, all huddle around the figure of Christ, who rises as a decisive leader in the midst of the suffering masses.
- The Sermon on the Mount by Gustave Doré(click red text)
This picture by Gustave Doré the French illustrator (1832 – 1883) shows a pastoral scene, serene, calm balanced with the central focal point of the picture being Christ’s hand pointing decisively to heaven.
- The Sermon on the Mount by Gustave Doré(click red text)
Gran Torino may be a surprise suggestion for the Beatitudes but I think it is appropriate on a number of levels. We see the transformation of Walt Kowalski as he finally gives up his antagonism towards the Hmong and recognises the challenges they face as displaced peoples. He tries to deal with the gangs terrorising in the way he knows – with anger and violence but it is only when he faces them as a ‘meek’ man that the terrorism of the gangs is overcome.
Play it Forward shows the power of the actively doing good, while also recognising that a straightforward cause and effect does not operate in our broken world.
The purpose of mulling meditations is to offer a few ideas that one can mull about while doing other occupations. There are many things we do in our day that do not require our full attention - some things which are largely done on automatic pilot - like driving a car or peeling the potatoes. While we give these our attention, part of our mind is still at work mulling on other things and unless it is given something positive to feed on, we easily feed on negative thoughts. Personally I find mulling time the most likely time for God to get through to me. Because I am not so conscious of myself, God gets through the cracks and opens my heart to look at life differently.
Two practical times for mulling can be when exercising and when driving. Some small preparations for integrating such prayer into these exercises can be helpful.
As you do your preparatory stretches, pray the line of the Psalm "I praise you God for I am wonderfully made!"
Similarly when doing your concluding stretches use the prayer of St Clare "Praised be you, my God, for creating me!"
Have some music that you find helps you turn you mind and heart to God and play that for the first 10 minutes or so of your trip.
This Sunday's Mulling Meditation
As you go through this week, be conscious of the times you feel vulnerable. At those times, turn to God as ask to see how they could be a time of blessing.
In the Letter of James, we are told that the Scriptures are like a mirror in which we can see ourselves. In this type of meditation we take a piece of Scripture, hold it before us and consider what echoes within our heart. These echoes help us to see who we are before God and how we are loved. What usually echoes in us are situations that we are dealing with in our lives. When something strikes us, we do not actively try to solve the situation or work it through. Rather we sit holding it in God's love. The point of such a meditation is to make space within the situation for God's love to be. In 'sitting with' such a situation, painful or sad, we come to recognise the love of God that is at work on our lives. The suggestions for Mirror reflections can also be used for Exercise reflections but wouldn't be advised for Driving Prayer as often some degree of emotion or distraction might rise in such prayer.
This Sunday's Mirror Meditation
Rest in the Love of your God
When you are at rest, recall the times that you have felt poor, the times you have mourned and the times you have hungered.
Take once experience and walk through it again with God. Stay with the situation till you can come to see how you were blessed at that time.
Rest in the Love of your God
True faith in God transforms how we see and this poem by the Australian poet John Shaw Neilson (1872-1942) beautifully shows a passage of transformation.
THE GENTLE WATER BIRD (for Mary Gilmore)
In the far days, when every day was long,
Fear was upon me and the fear was strong,
Ere I had learned the recompense of song.
In the dim days I trembled, for I knew God was above me,
always frowning through,
And God was terrible and thunder-blue.
Creeds the discoloured awed my opening mind,
Perils, perplexities – what could I find?
All the old terror waiting on mankind.
Even the gentle flowers of white and cream,
The rainbow with its treasury of dream,
Trembled because of God’s ungracious scheme.
And in the night the many stars would say
Dark things unaltered in the light of day:
Fear was upon me even in my play.
There was a lake I loved in gentle rain:
One day there fell a bird, a courtly crane:
Wisely he walked, as one who knows of pain.
Gracious he was and lofty as a king:
Silent he was, and yet he seemed to sing
Always of little children and the Spring.
God? Did he know him? It was far he flew?.
God was not terrible and thunder-blue:
It was a gentle water bird I knew.
Pity was in him for the weak and strong,
All who have suffered when the days were long
And he was deep and gentle as a song.
As a calm soldier in a cloak of grey
He did commune with me for many a day
Till the dark fear was lifted far away.
Sober-apparelled, yet he caught the glow:
Always of Heaven would he speak, and low,
And he did tell me where the wishes go.
Kinsfolk of his it was who long before
Came from the mist (and no one knows the shore)
Came with the little children to the door.
Was he less wise than those birds long ago
Who flew from God (He surely willed it so)
Bearing great happiness to all below?
Long have I learned that all his speech was true;
I cannot reason it – how far he flew
God is not terrible nor thunder-blue.
Sometimes, when watching in the white sunshine,
Someone approaches – I can half define
All the calm beauty of that friend of mine.
Nothing of hatred will about him cling:
Silent – how silent – but his heart will sing
Always of little children and the Spring.
John Shaw Neilson (1872-1942)
Possibly one of the most famous poems of Western literature, the poem on Mercy from the Merchant of Venice, captures how a beatitude of God’s mercy can be revealed in our lives.
THE QUALITY OF MERCY
The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown.
His scepter shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings.
But mercy is above this sceptered sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings;
It is an attribute of God himself;
And earthly power doth then show like God’s
When mercy seasons justice.
William Shakespeare 1564-1616