The readings from Luke and 1 Corinthians continue, each raising different issues. Luke 6:17-26 begins the Sermon on the Plain with a series of blessings and woes, in part parallel to the Beatitudes. Both the Old Testament lection and the responsorial psalm use the same kind of expressions as in Luke to stress the contrast between the righteous and the unrighteous, between weal and woe. First Corinthians 15:12-20 turns our attention to Paul’s argument concerning belief in the resurrection. It does to some extent suggest some of the eschatological tone of the Gospel reading.
Jeremiah 17:5-10. As in other Old Testament prophetic and wisdom literature from the time of Jeremiah onward, the focus is upon the inner life of the individual. God is concerned with the heart, the thoughts and beliefs of the person.
The passage raises the question of divine retribution, as does the reading from Luke, Does God give to all people according to what they have done? One who preaches on such texts is obligated to the first instance to let the text have its say. Here that would include reflection in the context of verses 5-8 as well, which suggests that those who trust in what is human and those who trust in God have their reward. To do the one is to live an arid life; to do the other is to live the abundant life Having examined the perspective of the text, then one might reflect on the extent to which the viewpoint corresponds to experience and to the rest of the biblical canon.
Psalm 1 profiles two types of persons, the righteous and the wicked, and thus reflects a pattern frequently found in the Old Testament. Obviously, the intention of the text was to encourage emulation of the righteous and to discourage imitation of the wicked. As such, the psalm is a sharp call for commitment to a certain pattern of life, a pattern based on study and meditation of the Torah and observance of its commandments.
The two ways are summarized. The way of the righteous God knows (cherishes, upholds, aids), but the way of the wicked is on its own, doomed, perishing, headed for chaos.
1 Corinthians 15:12-20 states the most basic Christian assumption: “Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead…” (v.12). Even though this is an “if clause,” its content is assumed to be real. With this claim, we are at the fulcrum of the Christian faith, for on this everything else turns.
Paul’s line of reasoning, where he appeals to our own experience, may appear odd, even unconvincing, to us because it seems to beg the question. Yet for Paul, Christian existence had such palpable, undeniable concreteness that it could function as the fulcrum of his argument.
Paul finds it so incredible to grant their point that he concludes with a strong reaffirmation of faith: “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died (v. 20). Here we are near the heart of the gospel he preaches (Romans 8:11; 1 Corinthians 6:14; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Galatians 1:1). By identifying Christ as the “first fruits”, he asserts the continuity between Christ’s own resurrection and our own. Our destiny is indissolubly linked with the destiny of Christ.
Luke 6:17-26 join in describing the conditions of those living under God’s favor (blessing) and those under God’s disfavor (curse or woe). On the lips of members of the faith community addressing one another, a blessing is a celebration of someone’s pleasant and happy circumstance, and a curse or woe is a lament over someone’s plight. However, when spoken by God or by one who speaks for God, blessing and woes are more than descriptive; they are pronouncements that declare in effect that those conditions will prevail. On the lips of Jesus Christ, therefore, the blessings and the woes of our Gospel lection can be taken as the “Official” proclamation of the way life will be among the people of God. In other words, as an Epiphany text, this passage does more than suggest how to be happy, not sad. Blessing and woes are to be heard with the assurance that they are God’s word to us, and God will implement them.
C. G. A.