Daily Reflection – 9/11/19
Raising his eyes toward his disciples Jesus said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours. Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven. For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way. But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. But woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep. Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way.” (Luke 6: 20-26)
Luke’s account of the beatitudes is a little different from the better know version that Matthew offers. In these passages, for instance, Luke is a little more concrete, a little more focused on those who are in actual need. So while Matthew records Jesus as blessing those who are “poor in spirit” and “hunger and thirst for righteousness,” in Luke Jesus attends to the more immediate and physical dimension of our lives: blessed are you “who are poor” and “who are hungry now.”
Moreover, while Matthew has only blessings, Luke also adds “woes” or warnings to those who are rich and full and content and, apparently, have little regard for those who are doing without.
Why the differences?
I find helpful to remember that the gospels are always as much or more confession as they are history. That is, as we saw from the very beginning of Luke’s story, he is offering his “orderly account” in order to confirm his community in what they have learned about Jesus.
Jesus begins his teaching on the way of the kingdom of heaven by addressing the issue of where true happiness is found. The word beatitude literally means happiness or blessedness. Jesus’ way of happiness, however, demands a transformation from within — a conversion of heart and mind which can only come about through the gift of the Holy Spirit.
How can one possibly find happiness in poverty, hunger, mourning, and persecution? If we want to be filled with the joy and happiness of heaven, then we must empty ourselves of all that would shut God out of our hearts. Poverty of spirit finds ample room and joy in possessing God alone as the greatest treasure possible. Hunger of the spirit seeks nourishment and strength in God’s word and Spirit. Sorrow and mourning over wasted life and sin leads to joyful freedom from the burden of guilt and oppression. God reveals to the humble of heart the true source of abundant life and happiness. Jesus promises his disciples that the joys of heaven will more than compensate for the troubles and hardships they can expect in this world. Thomas Aquinas said: No person can live without joy. That is why someone deprived of spiritual joy goes after carnal pleasures. Do you know the joy and happiness of hungering and thirsting for God alone?
Prayer of The Day
Dear God, make us mindful of those with less; more than that, use us to demonstrate your love and special concern for all those who suffer. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
When we are struggling with the woes, it may be helpful to sit down and focus on the blessings we are experiencing at this time. This may give us some perspective. We may realize that even though life may not be what we would like it to be, we receive many blessings every single day. True, they may seem like small blessings: a smile, a phone call from a friend, the beauty of the sunset or a hug from someone you love, but they still are blessings.
When you are in the woes of life, look for beauty, laughter, or quiet, or ask God for a hug! Who knows: you may be surprised what gift you may receive!