The Gospel according to St. Luke
“Coming down off the mountain with them, [Jesus] stood on a plain surrounded by disciples, and was soon joined by a huge congregation from all over Judea and Jerusalem, even from the seaside towns of Tyre and Sidon. They had come both to hear him and to be cured of their ailments. Those disturbed by evil spirits were healed. Everyone was trying to touch him—so much energy surging from him, so many people healed! Then he spoke:
‘You’re blessed when you’ve lost it all. God’s kingdom is there for the finding. You’re blessed when you’re ravenously hungry. Then you’re ready for the Messianic meal. You’re blessed when the tears flow freely. Joy comes with the morning.
“Count yourself blessed every time someone cuts you down or throws you out, every time someone smears or blackens your name to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and that that person is uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—skip like a lamb, if you like!—for even though they don’t like it, I do . . . and all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company; my preachers and witnesses have always been treated like this.
But it’s trouble ahead if you think you have it made. What you have is all you’ll ever get.
And it’s trouble ahead if you’re satisfied with yourself. Your self will not satisfy you for long. And it’s trouble ahead if you think life’s all fun and games. There’s suffering to be met, and you’re going to meet it.
“There’s trouble ahead when you live only for the approval of others, saying what flatters them, doing what indulges them. Popularity contests are not truth contests—look how many scoundrel preachers were approved by your ancestors! Your task is to be true, not popular.
“To you who are ready for the truth, I say this: Love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for that person. If someone slaps you in the face, stand there and take it. If someone grabs your shirt, gift-wrap your best coat and make a present of it. If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.” Message Bible
“What should I do?” is the question all of us ask of ourselves at different points in our lives. The Beatitudes or the “Litany from Jesus” gives us all the obvious answers. Obvious because, as baptized persons, there’s nothing new to his list except our answering that piercing question, “What should I do?” It’s not found in the bottle of beer but in our shoes.
Well, Christians, put on your Nike sneakers and “Just do it.” “Live generously.” Live and love this day as if it’s your last day because, indeed, it is the last day – it is the today that is erased by tomorrow. Ask any cancer patient. Ask any parent holding an adoring infant who’ll want the car keys many years from now. Ask any friend in a hospital’s waiting room. Ask the employee sitting outside the manager’s office knowing she’s about to be fired. Ask the mom with early contractions. Ask anyone, they’ll tell you the obviousness of Christ’s beautiful message.
The righteousness Jesus calls forth from each of us is deeply embedded in our souls. You know your soul. We can’t locate it but we know it’s there. It’s the “tree that shades you from the sun,” “the running water” that smoothly deals with every life issue, it’s the “fruit enjoyed in due season,” “it’s the fruit whose leaves never fades” (except a bit of grey on the top of your head and a slightly larger belly). According to Scripture, we, in Wisconsin, have a better chance of going to heaven because we enjoy (or endure) changes in season. Those folks in Florida and Arizona are like “a barren bush in the desert that enjoys no change of season.” (Poor, retired people.)
A problem comes forward and we can choose to mindfully run from it. Oh, our stupid minds. Hide it under a lamp. Or, our bodies can take a vacation away from it while it continues to stew and stir in our hearts and souls. Silly bodies. We can drink more but that only leads to more drinking.
No, that “What should I do” question is deeply answered within our souls. I can’t give you the answer because that question is even asked of priests. It’s that itch that’s not on your arm but your soul is telling you to “Scratch it and wake up!” It’s that hour of lost sleep when you thought running from those thoughts would help. It’s the laziness that somehow the problem or decision would take care of itself (cue Tinkerbell!).
We’ve been given and have life’s living list, alive and well, living within us. We’ve heard this Scripture passage how many times before and recognize it after hearing the first few words from Jesus Christ. Nike was right, “Just do it.” Do it for your soul’s fulfillment. Do it for the health of your beating, aging heart. Do it “to put your mind at rest,” as the saying goes.. That’s the union of body, mind and spirit. That’s the tree and the running water along with all the enduring seasons and enjoyable fruit that is ripe thanks to God’s grace and strength.
That’s why the Gospel ends not with our culture’s cheap grabbing of life, like a bottle of beer, but with a spiritual mandate that eliminates and makes life-living worthy of our lives, like sneakers soaked in running waters that smoothly deals with every life issue. “Live and love generously.”