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September 12, 2018 - Awareness

Wednesday of the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

The readings today are challenging on many different levels.  Paul’s letter to the Corinthians on first glance seems to be calling us to a life of celibacy.  Indeed, in this section of Corinthians, Paul suggests, “let even those who have wives, be as though they had none.”  These words were Paul’s opinion based on the reality of the situation as he understood it.

As it was Paul believed that the Christ’s return was imminent.  This letter was some of the first New Testament writings, penned even a decade before the first gospel.  Paul, along with many in the early church, believed that Christ would return within their own lifetimes.  It is with that understanding that today’s reading is best reflected upon.  For Paul, there was no need to marry.  Paul suggests that the world, in its present form is passing away.  Paul like a good parent is trying to protect his spiritual children.

Paul did not know then what we know now; that many generations later we still are waiting for the Lord’s return.  What then can we glean from Paul’s words of wisdom?  The answer may lay a few verses ahead of today’s reading, “I say this to you…to promote good order and unhindered devotion to the Lord.” 

Paul asks us to examine the realities of our lives and to see how our material nature distracts us from our spiritual one.  Thus we are to live our lives differently from those immersed in the world.  We are to live and interact in the world, yet not be sidetracked by earthly realities.  As disciples, we must be the encounter with Christ for the world.

The reading from the Gospel of Luke gives us a framework for living a life of preparation for the world to come.  This section of Chapter Six is called ‘Sermon on the Plain.’  For Luke it is the equivalent of Matthew’s ‘Sermon on the Mount’.  While Matthew’s Beatitudes’ are more spiritualized, Luke’s are more material, earthly.  Luke’s ‘Beatitudes’ focus not on the “poor in spirit” whereas Matthew’s focus is the “poor”.

Jesus challenges us to see “Blessed are you who are poor,…and are hungry, …and who weep, …and who are persecuted.”  Unlike Matthew, Luke adds “Woe to you who are rich,…who are satisfied…who are laughing,…who speak well of you.”  Like Paul, Luke makes clear that those who live right will be rewarded in the kingdom of heaven.  And for those who have been rewarded in this life, that is recompense enough.

While neither reading needs to be taken literally, both call on us to be radically aware of life’s circumstances.  We live in the richest country in the world.  Those of us who are college educated have more education than 90 % of the world’s population, yet one in ten high school students in the U.S. drop out.  We often spend more on bottled water or a coffee, than most people earn in a day.  The readings challenge us to be radically aware of our own riches, both spiritual and material.

- Deacon Michael Montgomery