Thus says the LORD:
Cursed is the one who trusts in human beings,
who seeks his strength in flesh,
whose heart turns away from the LORD.
He is like a barren bush in the desert
that enjoys no change of season,
but stands in a lava waste,
a salt and empty earth.
Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD,
whose hope is the LORD.
He is like a tree planted beside the waters
that stretches out its roots to the stream:
it fears not the heat when it comes;
its leaves stay green;
in the year of drought it shows no distress,
but still bears fruit.
Brothers and sisters:
If Christ is preached as raised from the dead,
how can some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead?
If the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised,
and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain;
you are still in your sins.
Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.
If for this life only we have hoped in Christ,
we are the most pitiable people of all.
But now Christ has been raised from the dead,
the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
Jesus came down with the twelve
and stood on a stretch of level ground
with a great crowd of his disciples
and a large number of the people
from all Judea and Jerusalem
and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon.
And raising his eyes toward his disciples he said:
“Blessed are you who are poor,
for the kingdom of God is yours.
Blessed are you who are now hungry,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who are now weeping,
for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you,
and when they exclude and insult you,
and denounce your name as evil
on account of the Son of Man.
Rejoice and leap for joy on that day!
Behold, your reward will be great in heaven.
For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way.
But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
Woe to you who are filled now,
for you will be hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will grieve and weep.
Woe to you when all speak well of you,
for their ancestors treated the false
prophets in this way.”
Paul employs an argument in our I Corinthians reading that might raise a few of our eyebrows. He doesn’t reason the way we’d expect him to reason. We’d suppose he’d say, “If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then we’re not going to rise from the dead.” But he turns the argument around. He maintains, “If we’re not going to rise from the dead, then neither did Jesus rise from the dead.”
Some Corinthian Christians seem to believe Jesus rose from the dead, but they don’t see what that has to do with their rising from the dead. I, for instance, believe Bill Gates is a multi-billionaire. But his wealth doesn’t put an extra dollar in my billfold. What does Jesus’ resurrection have to do with me?
In Paul’s mind, it has everything to do with me. If I’ve made the decision to become another Christ, then our lives overlap. What happens to one happens to the other, and vice versa. If I suffer, then the risen Jesus suffers; if the risen Jesus rejoices, then I rejoice. The key to understanding this passage is that Paul’s referring to the risen Jesus, not the historical Jesus. The latter was a free, Jewish man; the former, as much a slave as free, Gentile as Jew, woman as man. That means a non-Jewish, female slave can be part of risen Jesus’ body, even though the historical Jesus couldn’t identify with any of those aspects.
Just read a transcript of the 11 sermons the “papal preacher” recently delivered to the American bishops during their Mundelein retreat. I was especially interested in the one in which he treated celibacy. He started out presuming something no Scripture scholar presumes: Jesus wasn’t married. We have no idea whether or not this Galilean carpenter was married. Our biblical sources are silent on the subject. This not only tells us Jesus’ marital status wasn’t important for our sacred authors, but the preacher might have been dealing with the “wrong” Jesus. If he was solely concerned with the situation of the historical Jesus, he logically would have had to give separate conferences on how Jesus’ being a free person, a Jew and a man paralleled the bishops’ ministry. If he treated those topics, no one provided the transcripts. I presume he preached on celibacy simply because “we’ve got it,” and he felt obligated to defend it.
The preacher wasn’t alone in employing such biblical methodology. We hear it frequently, for instance, from those defending a male only priesthood. Such reasoning flies in the face of Paul’s theology. How can one argue priests must mirror the maleness of Jesus if they’re disciples of the risen Jesus?
Like Jeremiah, we’re constantly trying to achieve life through our faith. But the life the prophet discovered in a relationship with Yahweh, we discover in a relationship with the risen Jesus.
There’s only one way to do that: by dying with Jesus. That’s why today’s gospel pericope is so significant. Luke’s Sermon on the Plain has the same beliefs as Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount. They’re taken from the same source. Both stress that the only way to rise with Jesus is to first die with Jesus. We don’t necessarily do this physically, we achieve it by giving ourselves to others. But the life-giving results are always the same. Sharing our wealth and food with those around us, for instance, brings a wealth and satisfaction we can’t acquire any other way. And the best (and most demanding) part about it, anyone can do it. The risen Jesus has taken away all human restrictions. If we can pull that off, then the person who first achieved it – and with whom we’re one - must also have pulled it off.