For the remainder of the Church year we shall read mainly from the Gospel of Luke. Until recently we have given our attention to the Gospel of Matthew. A feature of Matthew is that Jesus fulfils the Law and the Jewish Scriptures.
On the other hand, Luke addresses the Gentiles with his emphasis on a narrative that expresses the identity and teaching of Jesus. There is compassion for sinners and women, but firmness when it comes to the issue of wealth and the poor.
In this reading we have heard a brief extract from Luke’s Sermon on the Plain. This is a parallel to Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount. In Luke’s account Jesus comes down from the mount with the twelve and stands on a level place. This setting is meant to recall Moses descent from Mount Horeb/Sinai. Jesus then gives his instruction which is in essence his “Torah.”
What we now know as the Golden Rule (“Do to others as you would have them do to you.”) finds itself in the midst of sayings on love of enemies, nonviolence in the face of hostility and freedom from attachment to material possessions. This makes clear that Jesus’ call to disciples is not merely a call to even handedness and a mutual exchange of values among one another. The ultimate source of such an exchange is God the Father. Trust in God is what liberates the disciple from false expectations regarding our fellow humans.
Luke’s climactic line is: “Be merciful as your Father is merciful.” This sounds more within our grasp than Matthew’s “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Furthermore, Luke qualifies not judging others as follows: “Do not condemn and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven; give and it will be given to you.”
Luke sounds like one who engages by offering pastoral advice to the disciple who struggles with harsh judgement of others and the ability to forgive others. Jesus conveys the conviction that acting on this sermon’s teaching is essential to salvation. Not to put this teaching into practice is to fail utterly in the Christian life.
Fr Brian Kelty