As he does in every one of his letters, after he is done making the necessary theological arguments, St. Paul closes with something that Scripture scholars refer to as the “paraneses.” He exhorts or counsels the community to action. In the Letter to the Colossians, he really hits full throttle and gives us an exhaustive list of “garments” that we are to put on: heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and gratitude.
However the key words come at the very beginning of the reading. He tells us that we are God’s chosen ones. These attitudes are simply an expectation of whom we claim to be. If we know who we are, then we must act accordingly.
The Gospel for today puts the same expectations on us. Today’s passage is taken from the section of the Gospel known as the Sermon on the Plain. We have heard much the same thing in the Sermon on the Mount from St. Matthew’s Gospel. St. Luke deliberately brings Jesus down from the mountain where he had been praying and places him on the plain, not speaking from above but on the same level as the crowd. This is typical of St. Luke’s Gospel who portrays Jesus as the personification of God’s compassion toward us.
There is one very telling difference in these two sermons. Where St. Matthew asks us to be perfect as the Heavenly Father is perfect, St. Luke asks us to be merciful as our Father is merciful. God’s perfection is exemplified in mercy. It is, perhaps, the most telling difference between God’s perfection and our imperfection. God acts with compassion while we find it so hard to forgive.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator