“Jesus came down with the twelve and stood on a stretch of level ground with a great crowd” (Lk 6:17). This detail from the opening of today’s Gospel remind us of the kenosis of the Incarnation. The Eternal Word, Son of the Father, became flesh. He became one like us, standing on level ground with the great crowd of humanity. The verses skipped by today’s Gospel segment echo this truth. They speak of the people coming forth, seeking “to touch him, for power came forth from him and healed them all” (Lk 6:18). The God of Life is among them.
In this very intimate context, Jesus lifted his eyes towards them. He looked at those he healed, those who were hungry and poor and mourning and perhaps mocked because they sought him. To them, he addresses his sermon. He repeats four times, “Blessed are you” (Lk 6:20, 21, 22). Note Jesus says blessed are you, not, blessed will you be. To those who are poor, the Kingdom is yours, now! At the same time, we must acknowledge that Jesus suggests that the hunger and mourning will remain for a time. But the pangs shall subside; the tears shall be wiped away. It is the promise that declares the poor and hungry and weary and persecuted blessed. Blessed promise, blessed now. Yes, just as we just proclaimed in the response, “Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.”
The second reading reminds us of the guarantee of our hope, “Christ is preached as raised from the dead” (1 Cor 15:12). Pope John Paul II teaches that something new happens in Christ’s resurrection: it means “the reestablishment of human life in its integrity, through the union of body and soul, but also a wholly new state of human life itself” (TOB 66:3). The Risen Christ is indeed still true God and true man, but what is astounding is that “the resurrection signifies a new submission of the body to the spirit” (TOB 66:5). The pope is quick to remind us that this “does not signify any ‘disincarnation’ of the body nor, consequently, man’s ‘dehumanization.’ On the contrary, it signifies his perfect ‘realization’” (TOB 67: 2). The Risen Lord is man at his apex.
Pope John Paul II then unfolds the tremendous significance of Jesus’ resurrection for us. While the saint has a different context in mind, what he says in the Theology of the Body about Christ’s resurrection holds true for the message of the beatitudes, which we heard today. The pope writes, “Christ is God’s final word on this subject; in fact, the covenant established with him and through him between God and humanity opens an infinite prospect of Life: and access to the tree of Life—according to the original plan of the God of the covenant—is revealed to every man in its definitive fullness” (TOB 65:6). This image of Christ being the tree recalls the image used by Jeremiah: “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” (Jer 17:8; see also Ps 1:3). In a certain way, we might say that the tree is Christ’s humanity and it is alive and flourishing because it’s roots drink deeply of the stream’s living waters (his divinity). Thus, in a real way, Jesus is both the stream and the tree of Life that withstands all drought.
If we combine this image of the prophet with another given by Jesus himself, we are the branches fixed to the Tree of Life (cf. Jn 15:5). This means that the blessedness to be fulfilled in the resurrection of the body means the full “participation in the divine nature,” which means nothing less than, “the participation in the inner life of God himself, penetration and permeation of what is essentially human by what is essentially divine… [In God] the life of the human spirit will reach a fullness that was absolutely inaccessible to it before” (TOB 67:3). This gift implies man’s response, namely, “the reciprocal gift of oneself to God—a gift in which man will concentrate and express all the energies of his own personal…subjectivity” (TOB 68:2). Our goal, then, in a word, is “intimacy with him in the perfect communion of persons” (TOB 67:3).
Now, this life of perfect intimacy, of the interpenetration of what is human with what is divine, will not be completely foreign to us. Jesus, in fact, proclaims the blessedness of now, because already, he is the living stream from which we drink, he is already the Tree to which we adhere. At the same time, something new will occur: “that perennial meaning of the human body…will then be revealed again and will be revealed at once in such simplicity and splendor that everyone who shares in the ‘other world’ will find in his glorified body the fountain of the freedom of the gift. The perfect ‘freedom of the sons of God’ (Rom 8:21) will nourish with this gift also all the communions that will constitute the great community of the communion of saints” (TOB 69:6). Blessed shall we be indeed, “saints among the saints in the halls of heaven” (Eucharistic Prayer for Reconciliation I). So, brothers and sisters, let us “rejoice and leap for joy” today, for the reward for those who hope in the Risen Lord will be great (see Lk 6:26). It will be communion with Blessed Life!
Father Steven Costello was ordained a priest with the Legionaries of Christ on December 12, 2011. Prior to entering the seminary, he majored in Music Education at the University of Central Florida. His main instrument is trombone and he particularly enjoys Mahler’s Symphonies. In 2018, he earned his doctorate in Sacred Theology at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute in Washington, DC. His topic focused on understanding the human person in light of the heart of Christ, that is, an anthropology centered in love. He has participated in both the TOB I: Head & Heart Immersion and TOB & Art: The Way of Beauty courses and served as chaplain for TOB I and for Missio.