The First Reading for today as well as the gospel speak of “being lifted up.” Moses lifted up the bronze serpent so those who were bitten by snakes might be cured. Jesus was lifted up on the cross so we could be saved. The word in Greek that is translated a “being lifted up” meant both being crucified and being enthroned as king. In John’s gospel it is the cross from which Jesus reigns. This cross of torture and death God turned into victory. So, today let us acclaim: “We adore You O Christ and we praise You because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.”
We have 3 sets of ideal norms followed by the motivation for them. The first set deals with love of enemies, nonretaliation, and generosity without recompense. The motivation:”Do to others…”, the Golden Rule. The second set deals with loving, doing good, and lending. The motivation: “Be compassionate as the Father is compassionate.” The third set deals with not judging/not condemning, forgiving, and giving in good measure. The motivation:”the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.” These are ideal Christian values. They are quite a bit to soak in. Maybe, we should reflect today, and every day, on how well we adhere to these Christian ideals?
Today we hear the beginning of the “Sermon on the Plain,” comparable to “The Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew. We hear three Beatitudes regarding the poor, the hungry, and the sorrowing. The fourth Beatitude reflects the hostility of Jesus’ enemies toward the end of His ministry. Then, we hear 4 “woes.” The woes are a strong appeal to the rich to meet the needs of the poor and weak. This section of the sermon is a call to service to take care of those who can’t take care of themselves.
In today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus choose 12 special disciples that He calls “apostles” or special ambassadors. In other words, these 12 are the foundation of a “New Israel” just as the 12 tribes were in OT. Notice, Luke tells us that Jesus spent the night in prayer before He selected His 12. Thus, we have to recognize prayer as indispensable in our lives and ministry, as well.
Another curing on the Sabbath controversy, this time a man with a withered hand. Is it proper to do an act of kindness, healing on a Sabbath or not? Jesus always sides with doing good even if it technically violates the law. “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.”
Sometimes, people give up on God too quickly. We live in a world of instant gratification. We often apply this same principle to our prayer life. When we don’t get that instantaneous response, we say, “God just doesn’t hear me.” At those times, we must remember today’s gospel story and trust in Jesus to answer us He answered the deaf man’s friends. Notice too that the people involved “proclaimed” what Jesus had done. It was their form of “prayer of thanksgiving.” Do we remember to say “thanks” to God as often as we should?
Mary is one of the few that we celebrate that person’s birth (Jesus, of course, Christmas and John the Baptist is another one). In the prayers for the mass and the Liturgy of the Hours we find out why: “the birth of the Virgin Mary’s Son was the dawn of our salvation,” and again, “of whom was born the Son of Justice.” As usual, Mary points to her Son, Jesus Christ.