Dear Followers of Jesus,
Today’s gospel invites us on level ground to listen to Jesus speak to us. Luke 6:17, 20-26, tells of Jesus’ teaching about what the Kingdom of God is for us. We are to be poor enough to listen and rich enough to understand. We are to be hungry for something more and satisfied with God. In our weeping, we shall discover the healing of Christ Jesus.
Luke’s version of the Beatitudes is different from Matthew’s version. The obvious difference is that Luke has Jesus speaking on level ground. Matthew collects the disciples in the story on a hillside. I think this simple difference means a great deal. Jesus comes to us where we are, speaking to us face to face. This posture of Jesus and the disciples can be seen throughout the entire gospel. The level ground is the place where real life happens. This level ground means that everyone is the same, including the authority of Jesus.
The level ground is also the place where the disciples can be seen by one another by not allowing any of them to be higher or above the group. The level ground is not haughty, above the fray or otherworldly. Level ground is not about self-righteousness. This level ground is also a place where we long to be with Jesus. His authority is rooted deeply in our own lives, in our pain and fear. This grounding is significant. I believe it is also the place where we need to encounter Jesus in our own lives. It is also the place where we stand when we learn how to serve others, by not looking down on people. Our grounding in God and being with one another has much spiritual significance.
Being on level ground also has much to say about the authority of the Church. This challenge to reform our lives also starts with being on level ground with people, seeing them eye-to-eye. This challenge is particularly real in dealing with the sex abuse issues of our Church today. We have much work to do for all clerics to see their ministry not above people, not below people, but being on the same ground of faith, integrity and understanding. I am becoming weary of the effects of the abuse on our Church and I pray for a deep and profound humility from our bishops and leadership. I fear that the grounding of superiority will never change. I question on some days what it means to believe in the Beatitudes of the Church when our hierarchy remains on higher ground.
Woe to those who cling to such power. Woe to those not willing to remain on level ground of faith, hope and love. Woe to those who trust in power. Woe to those who believe they are separate from the poor and suffering. Woe to those whose lives are filled with richness now. Woe to those who cannot conceive of being wrong about any issue. Woe to us, who stand upon higher ground and look down upon others.