O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
your Son came to save us
and bore our sins on the cross:
may we trust in your mercy
and know your love,
rejoicing in the righteousness
that is ours through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Lord, who may dwell in your tabernacle?
Who may rest upon your holy hill?
Whoever leads an uncorrupt life
and does the thing that is right;
Who speaks the truth from the heart
and bears no deceit on the tongue;
Who does no evil to a friend
and pours no scorn on a neighbour;
In whose sight the wicked are not esteemed,
but who honours those who fear the Lord.
Whoever has sworn to a neighbour
and never goes back on that word;
Who does not lend money in hope of gain,
nor takes a bribe against the innocent;
Whoever does these things
shall never fall.
Glory to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now
and shall be for ever. Amen.
Jesus looked up at his disciples and said:
‘Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
‘Blessed are you who are hungry now,
for you will be filled.
‘Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
‘Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice on that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.
‘But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
‘Woe to you who are full now,
for you will be hungry.
‘Woe to you who are laughing now,
for you will mourn and weep.
‘Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.’
Today’s reading presents us with Luke’s account of the Beatitudes. Unlike the more familiar version we know from the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s gospel, the blessings are contrasted against a series of woes. The counter-cultural nature of the blessings are not changed. Those who are blessed are the poor, the hungry, those who weep and those who are persecuted for their faith. In Luke’s account these blessings are hammered home with Jesus spelling out that those who are rich in this world, those who have an abundance, those who gloat at the misfortune of others and those who are highly regarded will be the ones who come to know the woes that are being foretold.
We live in a world that celebrates success. Unfortunately, the nature of that success is defined by those who consider themselves to be successful. It is the rich and the highly regarded who decide upon the membership of their exclusive club. The majority of the world’s population have the door firmly slammed in their faces. Not only are they rejected and looked down upon but they are often blamed for their own unhappy lot. When people do not demonstrate ‘worldly success’ they are often labelled as feckless and idle, unambitious and unmotivated. The ones whom Jesus calls blessed are, in fact, the ones who do not demonstrate a need to bully and control, to look down upon and ostracise.
The word blessed, as used in the Beatitudes is interesting. It can also be translated as happy. Perhaps the thought of happiness rooted in poverty, hunger, misery and persecution seems strange. However, such happiness is there for all who are faithful to Christ’s call in their lives. It is a subtle point, but one that is often overlooked, that Jesus’ teaching that we know as the Beatitudes was offered to his disciples. We often have an image of these teachings being preached to the large crowds that gathered around Jesus but, no, they are given to the disciples. When looked at in this way they form part of Jesus’ promise to those who gave up everything to follow him. The Beatitudes are also Jesus’ promise to us, if we remain faithful and true in that faith.
Let us pray that, no matter what the world may throw at us, we might remain true to God’s call in our lives. Let us pray that we might, in God’s good time, come to know the blessings he seeks to pour upon us. Let us pray that we might not step away from the true path and stray into the woes that await those who cannot set aside their love and greed for all that belongs to this world.
Prayers of intercession
Let us pray to God, whose saints have witnessed to his glory.
May your Church, built on the foundation of the saints, be faithful to the teaching of Jesus so that in all her life she may reveal his likeness. Let our prayers be united with the praise of the blessed in heaven.
We pray for the world that is so often deaf to the only teaching that can bring true joy. Grant to his generation the spirit that inspired the saints, that all may walk in the way of righteousness.
Teach us to recognise the holiness of other people. Give to us, our families and friends, grace to live as Jesus taught his disciples.
Have mercy on those who are in great tribulation, persecuted for the sake of the Gospel. Bring relief in their distress, and the assurance of your blessing for all who are steadfast in faith.
Grant to the faithful departed a share in the inheritance of the saints. As we continue on our earthly pilgrimage, bring us at last to the same blessedness.
Rejoicing in the fellowship of the saints, we pray that our prayers may be sanctified.
Prayer for the week
May our Lord Jesus Christ
be near us to defend us,
within us to refresh us,
around us to preserve us,
before us to guide us,
above us to bless us;
who lives and reigns
with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
God for evermore.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.