First reading: Jer. 17:5–8
Thus says the LORD: Cursed is the one who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh, whose heart turns away from the LORD. He is like a barren bush in the desert that enjoys no change of season, but stands in a lava waste, a salt and empty earth. Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose hope is the LORD. He is like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream: it fears not the heat when it comes; its leaves stay green; in the year of drought it shows no distress, but still bears fruit.
Second reading: 1 Cor. 15:12,16–20
Brothers and sisters: If Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised, and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins. Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all.
But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
Gospel: Lk. 6:17,20–26
Jesus came down with the Twelve and stood on a stretch of level ground with a great crowd of his disciples and a large number of the people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon.
And raising his eyes toward his disciples he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom 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 Son of Man.
Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven. For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way. But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep. Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way.”
In other words Fr. Antonio Pernia, SVD (Divine Word Institute of Mission Studies, Tagaytay City)
In contrast to the Matthean version, Luke’s Sermon on the Plain contains not just “beatitudes” but also “woes.” So, in Luke’s Gospel, we have two groups of people—the ones blessed and the ones cursed—presented in near-perfect parallelism. The poor are blessed both for their physical situation of material poverty and for the mindset that ensues from it, that is, the unwavering trust in the goodness of God. The rich are cursed to the extent that material abundance leads to the enslaving dependence on wealth, which allows no place for thoughts about God and one’s neighbor, thus placing them outside the kingdom of God’s confines.
Here Jesus makes an unmistakable declaration about God’s preferential concern for the poor and underprivileged. As Pope Francis puts it in his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (EG 197), “God’s heart has a special place for the poor, so much so that he himself ‘became poor’ (2 Cor. 8:9).” This is the basis for the Church’s “option for the poor,” which is not just a political strategy but a recognition of God’s own preferential option. The option for the poor is, therefore, God’s own perspective, God’s way of looking at reality. As such, it becomes a hermeneutical key for the interpretation of reality. In his interview with the Italian Jesuit magazine, La Civilta Cattolica, Pope Francis says, “I am convinced of one thing: the great changes in history were realized when reality was seen not from the center but rather from the periphery. It is a hermeneutical question: reality is understood only if it is looked at from the periphery, and not when our viewpoint is equidistant from everything.”
Today we no longer speak simply of the “Church FOR the poor,” but of the “Church OF the poor.” The option for the poor is no longer simply about the Church evangelizing the poor, but also about the Church allowing itself to be evangelized by the poor. It is no longer simply about the Church coming to the help of the poor, but also about the Church adopting the perspective of the poor, and thus, looking at reality not from the center but from the periphery.
In the light of the words of Pope Francis quoted above, we can ask ourselves whether significant changes are taking place in the world today. If the answer is NO, then perhaps the reason is that we are looking at reality from the center and not from the periphery. Indeed, significant changes will come about only if we begin to adopt the perspective of the poor and look at reality from the periphery and not from the center. Indeed, “Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours!”