07 September. Wednesday, Week 23
1st Reading: 1 Corinthians 7:25-31
Christians are free to marry or not, but remember anyway that this world is passing
Now concerning the unmarried, I have no command of the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. I think that in view of the present distress it is well for a person to remain as he is. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek marriage. But if you marry, you do not sin, and if a girl marries she does not sin. Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that. I mean, brethren, the appointed time has grown very short; from now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the form of this world is passing away.
Gospel: Luke 6:20-26
The Beatitudes of Jesus, here spoken on “level ground” to a large crowd
Then he looked up at his disciples and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.”Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.
“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. “Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. “Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep. “Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.
No Lasting City
We have here no lasting city. The directness of Luke’s Beatitudes becomes apparent when compared with Matthew’s which are more abstract. Luke’s are addressed to the crowds as “You, who are poor” etc. Matthew’s are addressed not to the masses, but to disciples who alone follow Jesus up the mountain, and are phrased in the third person, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the reign of God is theirs.” Luke has Jesus coming down the mountain to deliver his message on a level place where a large crowd of people are gathered.
Luke’s Beatitudes may be closer to Jesus’ original words, phrased in the second person: “Blessed are you who hunger; you shall be filled” etc. Jesus’ works are not a general, catechetical discourse but specifically and immediately address “you poor” and “you who hunger.” In this Gospel we are told, bluntly, that God accomplishes more with our poverty than with our wealth, more with our faith than with our activity. Poverty and faith have an easier access to God. Wealth and status can close a person’s heart or even weigh us down with anxieties.
To the Corinthians Paul admits that on the matter of celibacy he has no commandment from the Lord. He proceeds to give some of his own reflections on the options open to us. He advises people not to rush into marriage; but neither should they to remain single merely as a way to avoid responsibility. And whether married or single, one should not be overly possessive. Husbands and wives are not related as owners of each other but as baptised believers, united in the Lord. This union transcends all difference of gender and underpins their radical equality of value and dignity.