Scripture Readings for Mass
(Liturg. Calendar for Ireland 2018)

12 September. Wednesday, Week 23

The Holy Name of Mary (opt. mem.); St Ailbe, bishop (opt. mem.)

1st Reading: 1 Corinthians 7:25-31

We are free to marry or not, in this world that is passing away

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

Jesus 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.

BIBLE

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.


Unrealistic and beyond reach?

The beatitudes in today's gospel sound strange to our ears. Jesus declares blessed and happy the poor, the hungry and those who weep, whereas he declares unfortunate the rich and those who have their fill of everything. Those sentiments seem to go against common sense. They jar with how we normally see life. That is true of a great deal of the teaching of Jesus. It forces us to rethink how we normally view life. Jesus proclaimed a God who wanted to show special favour to the distressed and vulnerable. This is why Jesus addresses this group as blessed, because God is with them and wants to change their situation. Our vulnerability creates an opening for God to work in our lives, whereas when all is well with us we can easily be self-satisfied and dispense with God. We know from our own experience that we often seek God with greater energy when our need is greater, whether it is our individual or communal need. We come before the Lord in our poverty, our hunger, our sadness because it is above all in those times that we realize that we are not self-sufficient. In Luke's gospel, from which our reading is taken, as Jesus hung from the cross one of the criminals alongside him said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." To this poor, hungry, weeping man Jesus said, "today, you will be with me in paradise." It is when we are at our weakest that the Lord's transforming and life-giving presence is at its strongest.


CANDLE

Saint Ailbe, bishop

Ailbe (Latin: Albeus), also known as Saint Elvis, was a 6th-century Irish bishop (d. 528), who is also associated with early medieval Wales, particularly Saint David, whom he was credited with baptizing. He founded a monastery at Emly and is the patron saint of Cashel and Emly.