Jesus’ Upside-Down World — Center for Action and Contemplation
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Jesus’ Upside-Down World

The Sermon on the Mount

Jesus’ Upside-Down World
Monday, July 19, 2021

What is called the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s Gospel (5:1–7:29) is called the Sermon on the Plain in Luke’s Gospel (6:20–49). What we call in Matthew the Eight Beatitudes, we call in Luke the Blessings and Woes (four of each). Today we will look at the four blessings.

Blessed are you who are poor, for the reign 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 Human One. (Luke 6:20–22)

In this chapter of Luke’s Gospel, Jesus has just chosen his twelve disciples on the mountain. These are the very first words recorded that he says to them and to the great crowd that gathered, so they must be important. I think he’s describing what the world would look like if people really followed him. He’s giving us an upside-down version of reality that turns middle-class morality on its head.

Blessed are you who are poor.

What a strange thing to say! Does anyone really think today that the poor are blessed? I don’t think so. Most of us are enthralled by capitalism and think it is the rich who are blessed. We have even turned the Gospel into a “prosperity” message—that if we have enough faith, God rewards us with financial success. That sure doesn’t sound like what Jesus is saying here! Scholars teach that Luke was talking to a poor community, and so in this passage Jesus is affirming the poor directly. He doesn’t soften things like Matthew does for his more well-off community by saying “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”

Blessed are you who are now hungry.

Jesus seems to be teaching that we need to choose at least a bit of dissatisfaction—which is the human situation anyway—so that we long for God. God alone is the One who will finally satisfy us.

Blessed are you who weep now.

Weeping doesn’t sound like a very positive thing, but people who have gone through major grief often tend to be more compassionate, more forgiving and understanding. Somehow, grief softens the heart.

Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Human One.

Talk about an upside-down universe! I’m not happy when people hate me—and some people do hate me. Jesus is saying that we have to find our happiness somewhere other than in people’s opinions about us. If we don’t, it’s just up and down, constantly assessing, who likes me today? If we want to build our life on a solid foundation, we need to base it on God who loves us unconditionally, constantly, and without exception. Then we don’t go up and down. We know who we are now and forever.

Reference:
Adapted from Richard Rohr, “What the World Would Look like If Jesus’ Worldview Was in Control,” homily, February 17, 2019.

Story from Our Community:
I’ve worked since age 8 or 9 to keep Christ’s Beatitudes central in my life. Life has been filled with one hill followed after another, and I’ve tried to help others in my community. In my 80s now I work to see Christ’s light in each face I meet and to make them laugh, whether in an in-person meeting or on the phone. —Darlene A.

Image credit: Oliver, Street Piano (detail), 2010, photograph, Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0
Image inspiration: A public piano is for everyone. The sound of the notes is a gift, made by ordinary people, rippling outward toward passersby. The beauty of shared music is present, whether or not the people who hear it respond.
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