This Gospel shows how many people look at suffering. At the time of Jesus and sometimes today, people tend to associate suffering with committing sin. They think that if a person suffers a lot, he or she has committed many sins against God. Although this might be the case here and there, Jesus goes beyond the physical state of suffering to show that all are invited to turn to God in a radical way. Some suffering may be inflicted by other people, as those whom Herod killed. Or it may be due to an accident, like those on whom the tower of Siloam fell. In either case, those who suffer are not more sinful than those who do not suffer. For Jesus such tragic events are a reminder for all to change their lives and return to God because the time left is short.
In today’s Gospel we meet Jesus at prayer in the company of Peter, James and John. In this experience of prayer, the disciples perceive him in an intimate union with God in such an extraordinary way that even his face is radically changed. They see that Jesus is in the company of Moses and Elijah and understand that he stands in the tradition of Israel’s messengers from God. They also hear a voice from heaven inviting them to listen to Jesus because he is the beloved Son of God. They have not yet understood the important of the event they are living. They will need time to grasp it more fully. This is how faith matures.
We are at the beginning of the public life of Jesus. At his baptism he received the Holy Spirit and heard the Father declare him to be Beloved Son. Soon after the Spirit drove him into the desert. The temptation story summaries different moments in the life of Jesus. Jesus is tempted to question the specific mission he had received as the beloved Son from his Father. In all these instances, he chose to remain faithful to his Father rather than to seek some personal glory through spectacular miracles. Satan leaves him for now, but the final temptation will be Jerusalem, during his passion (Lk 22:3.53).
Today we read the last of Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain’ Coming to the end of the speech, a good speaker will try to sum up and underline what is really important so that people will remember the main points. In his conclusion Jesus stressed that his disciples must learn to be true to themselves in words, thoughts and actions. Jesus uses three images taken from daily life to illustrate his point: a blind leader, a master and his disciple, the tree and its fruit. Jesus’ radical message must transform our lives if we want to bear good fruit and be disciples and leaders of others.
The Gospel of today continues the Sermon on the Plain. The challenge is to love differently from what is the normal way of loving. The world invites people to love those who love them and to repay evil for evil. However, Jesus invites his disciples to act differently. They are to use goodness of heart to overcome evil in the world and in their lives because they have seen the example of God himself. Jesus shows that love is revolutionary and can turn the world upside down.
In Lk 6:12-16, Jesus spent a full night in prayer and then called twelve men from among his disciples, whom he called ‘apostles’, the sent ones. Luke will use the title apostle only for those twelve chosen ones. Together with the other disciples they are the ones who hear the Great Sermon of Jesus on the Plain (Lk 6:17:7:1) which we start reading today. In his teaching Jesus shows where true happiness lies and warns that those who are trying to be sons and daughters of God often miss it. The standards of the world are not those of God. Jesus’ way of looking at life turns upside down our usual ideas and values.
Today’s Gospel follows the experience of Jesus in Nazareth that we read the past two Sundays. There he was first admired but later on rejected by his people (Lk 4:16-30). After some healing in Capernaum (Lk $:31-41) he prays in a lonely place (Lk 4:4243). Jesus comes back to the shores of Lake Gennesaret to teach a crowd eager to hear his word. Peter, James and John are invited to actually follow him. They leave their work and their family and friends to walk with him. Jesus teaches, challenges and calls the whole crowd. All listen eagerly but only some will be invited to follow him more closely.
Two selections from the two different chapters have been put together in today’s Gospel. The first is from the introduction to the entire Gospel (Lk 1:1-4) where Luke says for whom he is writing the Gospel, how he wrote it and why he wrote it. The second part is taken from the first public appearance of Jesus in his home village, Nazareth (Lk 4:14-21). He reads a passage from the book of the prophet Isaiah (Is 61:1-2) to tell them what his mission is about. He declares that the words are fulfilled todays in his person.