Readings: 1 Corinthians 7:25-31; Luke 6:20-26
A common way of moral teaching in the ancient world is in terms of ‘two ways’, one leading on to success and happiness, the other to disaster and disappointment. It is used also in the Bible, which speaks of a way that carries a blessing and leads to life, and a way that carries a curse and leads to death. One is the narrow way of which Jesus speaks, leading to life, and the other is the broad way, leading to death. To place your trust in flesh and in what the world can offer is a way that leads to death, the prophet Jeremiah says. It means living, sooner or later, in a parched land. To place your trust in the Lord is to be like a tree planted near life-giving water, able to send its shoots to the water to find nourishment. Such a tree blossoms, and bears fruit.
The form of the beatitudes given in the gospel of Luke follows this pattern of ‘the two ways’. Those who are poor and hungry, weeping and rejected, are blessed, Jesus says. Those who are rich and well fed, laughing and well thought of, are in difficulty. The true prophets experienced the former whereas the false prophets experienced the latter. People experiencing the former are obliged to place their trust in God and so they are like trees planted near life-giving water. People experiencing the latter find their meaning and significance in the world and will find themselves, sooner or later, living in a parched land. Somebody more beautiful will come along, or someone richer, or someone more influential, or someone younger … but the wise person finds the meaning and significance of their lives at some deeper place, where the divine water is to be found.
The paradox expressed in the beatitudes and woes of Luke 6 is most dramatically enacted in the paschal mystery of Christ. He is the seed sown in the ground. But the ground in which it is sown is watered from a divine source so that he springs to life again, life more abundant and more glorious. So when he speaks about the poor and hungry, about those who weep and are persecuted, he speaks about himself. And he knows the meaning and significance human life contains when it remains in touch with the divine water, blossoming (albeit in hidden ways) and bearing fruit (fruit that will last).