This was my homily for today followed by the gospel.
In the older world especially, a person’s name described what they did, what their vocation was. Jokingly I tell people that I’m Fr More-tea (Morty) and that I drink lots of tea. To prove the point I have a big mug back at the parochial house.
Seriously though, somebody called SMITH probably came from a blacksmith’s background, they made iron ploughs and gates and put shoes on horses. Somebody called BAKER made bread for a living.
This principle also holds true for Jesus. His name in Hebrew is Jeshua – and it simply means GOD SAVES. Jesus wasn’t sent from heaven to make iron instruments or bake bread but sent instead as a DIVINE SAVIOUR.
What does Jesus save us from? Well, he doesn’t save us from illness, old age, relationship problems, poverty or unemployment. When these things come our way, Jesus’ presence and grace in our lives will undoubtedly help us get through the experience – but they still happen. Jesus doesn’t save us from death either. Everybody here in the church today will be dead within 110 years or less.
So what does Jesus save us from? This is key: Jesus saves us from ETERNAL death, eternal oblivion and separation from God. He saves us from eternal death by taking us into his Resurrection.
In today’s second reading St Paul is speaking about a central belief of all Christians – that after Jesus died on Good Friday, he came back from the dead on Easter Sunday in a human body like ours. There is no Christianity without this all important event. “But Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of all who have fallen asleep.” If Jesus is the first fruits of this enormous victory over sin and death, then our hope is to be the second fruits by being raised up with Jesus.
A big question presents itself. What do you and I have to do in order to be SAVED by Jesus? It is simple: firstly we have to recognise our need for a divine Saviour; we are not masters of our own destiny. Recognising this we then need to receive Jesus into our lives as that Saviour and commit our lives to him.
Once we understand this, we can make sense of today’s gospel which comes across initially as a paradox, an apparent contradiction.
Jesus says that the poor, the hungry, the mourning, the persecuted are happy/blessed. This appears as non-sense: which of us would like to be in these situations and think that we would be blessed? Yet if these experiences of need and vulnerability lead us to recognise our need for a saviour, we are truly blessed: blessed because we will be led to Jesus our Saviour and Good Shepherd. As the singer / songwriter Leonard Cohen one said: “It is through the cracks (our brokenness in this world) that the light (of God’s grace) comes in.”
On the other hand Jesus says that the rich, comfortable, laughing and well-respected are to be pitied. Why? These states of life can lead to the illusion of our self-sufficiency. We can be deceived into thinking that we do not need a saviour and thus exclude Jesus from our lives. Such is the case of many of our contemporaries who no longer live a Christian life nor follow Jesus.
In Summary: One of the most important things we will ever do in life is to recognise our need to be saved from eternal death and then to commit our lives to Jesus as that Saviour.
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke 6: 17. 20-26
How happy are you who are poor but alas for you who are rich.
Jesus came down with the twelve and stopped at a piece of level ground where there was a large gathering of his disciples with a great crowd of people from all parts of Judaea and from Jerusalem and from the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon who had come to hear him and to be cured of their diseases.
Then fixing his eyes on his disciples he said:
‘How happy are you who are poor: yours is the kingdom of God.
Happy you who are hungry now: you shall be satisfied.
Happy you who weep now: you shall laugh.
Happy are you when people hate you, drive you out, abuse you, denounce your name as criminal, on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice when that day comes and dance for joy, for then your reward will be great in heaven. This was the way their ancestors treated the prophets.
‘But alas for you who are rich: you are having your consolation now.
Alas for you who have your fill now: you shall go hungry.
Alas for you who laugh now: you shall mourn and weep.
Alas for you when the world speaks well of you! This was the way their ancestors treated the false prophets.’
The Gospel of the Lord