Luke 6:17-26 Jesus came down with the twelve apostles and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them.
Then he 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 in 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.”
Reflection Jesus has just come down from the mountain where he had been praying and chose the twelve whom he named apostles, ones who are sent forth. Then Jesus looks at his disciples and says, “Blessed are you when you are poor, or hungry or weep or people hate and exclude you.”
What does he mean, to be blessed? To be blessed is to be made holy. To be holy is to be sanctified or set apart, purified, redeemed and made happy. For those of us who commit to love Jesus more dearly and follow Jesus more nearly (and be sent out to continue his work) the promise is, even while in the midst of suffering the holy abides with us, thus we are blessed, no matter what.
Then Jesus reverses course and declares, woe to you who are rich, full, laughing and when people speak well of you. Woe is an interjection of grief, “Oh no…!” When we are on top of our game and the world seems to be in our pocket, we cannot cling to things of this world therefore, woe will inevitably befall us. Oh no, inevitably our good fortune will fade.
In his sermon on the plain Jesus directs us to break out of our dualistic categories of right and wrong, good and bad, woe and blessing. When seemingly bad things happen we have reason to hope and be holy. When seemingly good things happen we have reason to grieve. Could this be Jesus foreshadowing St. Ignatius of Loyola’s insight that in the midst of desolation is hidden the seed of consolation, the promise that all will be redeemed and restored to holiness when we choose “with God life?” Likewise, tucked away in the heart of good fortune (consolation) is the seed of desolation because we cannot cling to fortune, inevitably it will pass?
The beatitudes poetically acknowledge our ever changing human condition. No matter who we are, we endure suffering, injustice and loss as well as fulfillment, joy and gain. Although we prefer to gloss over it, we are all subject to adversity as well as to advantage, we all are vulnerable to change. What makes the difference in how we navigate the good times and the bad is whether or not we set our hearts to love Jesus more dearly and our feet to follow Jesus more nearly. Navigating the vicissitudes of life with Jesus, we are blessed no matter what.
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