While I missed the Stranger Things bandwagon, my roommate has shared her fear induced by the Upside Down, a terrifying alternate dimension that spreads toxicity and death wherever it goes, especially when it breaks into the world in which we live. Similarly, Sunday’s gospel speaks of an upside-down world; however, this is the Upside Down world of God.Most people are familiar with the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount; however, today’s gospel in Luke is the lesser known Sermon on the Plain, and in it, Jesus takes commonly held beliefs of his and (our time) and turns them Upside Down. He calls the poor, the hungry, the weeping and the persecuted blessed, while he warns the wealthy, the satisfied, the apathetic, and those people with inflated self-importance to be fearful for their lack of concern for the poor and, therefore, lack of devotion to God. Our experience in the world looks and feels much different, with the rich and powerful making decisions that adversely affect others without any negative consequence on their own lives.
Unlike in the Sermon on the Mount, the Sermon on the Plain does not mention the poor “in spirit” or people who “hunger and thirst for righteousness.” While the spiritual interpretation isn’t excluded, Jesus proclaimed his sermon to people living on the margins, and he meant that the people standing before him were blessed in their continued trust in God amidst their literal poverty, hunger, and struggle. Jesus takes the wisdom of the world, that we should desire affluence and honor in society’s eyes, and turns it on its head.
Jesus’ decision to descend from the mountain and stand with his followers on the plain is a powerful image with implications for our lives. In this action as well as through his sermon, Jesus is calling all disciples to follow him to stand in solidarity with those living on the margins. How will you answer?
- Looking back over the past week, when I have taken a stance in solidarity with others? How can I do better in the week ahead?
- What are some thoughts or opinions that I might need to flip upside down in order to have a more compassionate understanding of the world around me?
- What are actions that I might take to more concretely stand in solidarity with people who are marginalized in my community today?
Brenna Davis is director of Education for Justice and environmental initiatives for the Ignatian Solidarity Network. She graduated from Boston College in 2010 and served in Cleveland as a Jesuit Volunteer. She previously taught theology, coached cross country, and served as main office coordinator at Saint Martin de Porres, Cleveland’s Cristo Rey High School. During her time there she was the self-proclaimed assistant to the director of facilities in all sustainability initiatives on campus. She is a certified spiritual director and a Cuyahoga County Master Recycler.