And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said: “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. “Blessed are you that hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. “Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh. “Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, on account of the Son of man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. “But woe to you that are rich, for you have received your consolation. “Woe to you that are full now, for you shall hunger. “Woe to you that laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. “Woe to you, when all men speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets. (Luke 6:20-26)
We know from experience that no one can escape all of the inevitable trials of life – pain, suffering, sickness, and death. When Jesus began to teach his disciples, he gave them a “way of happiness” that transcends every difficulty and trouble that can weigh us down with grief and despair.
Jesus began his sermon on the mount by addressing the issue of where true happiness can be 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 and working of the Holy Spirit.
His teaching of the Beatitudes is so fundamental to our beliefs that diverse characters including Francis of Assisi, Mahatma Gandhi, Leo Tolstoy and Dietrich Bonhoeffer have all understood the beatitudes of Jesus as the central core of his teaching and the most important part of his message.
So, what do the Beatitudes tell us. They tell us how God sees the world.
God sees as blessed those who are poor. God sees as valuable those who mourn, those who are lonely, those who are persecuted. The Beatitudes reveal that God is committed to those who are in need and those who suffer. It is because God is present to them, they are blessed. The Beatitudes do not say that it is a blessed or wonderful thing to be poor, or to be grieving, or to be persecuted.
They do assert that whenever any of these distressful things happen to us, God comes to us. God is attracted to us because God knows our needs. Because God is present in those distressful circumstances, those who are distressed are blessed.
So, this is the God that the Beatitudes reveal to us: a God who lifts up the lowly, who cares for the poor, who stands with the oppressed. It is this vision of who God is that stands at the center of Jesus’ ministry and forms the heart of Jesus’ teaching. There are two distinct and immediate consequences that flow from this God of the Beatitudes, two things which those who follow Christ must adopt: hope and solidarity.
To be a disciple of Jesus, we must be a people of hope. Because we know that when we are poor, when we are grieving, when we feel rejected or worthless or in need, God comes to us.
We believe in a God who comes to us in our struggles, a God who is with us and leads us to a place of fullness and joy. Those who follow Jesus must be people of hope because God cares for us in our need.
We must also be people of solidarity, solidarity with the poor and oppressed. If God is close to those who struggle, if God is close to those who are persecuted or in need, we must act towards them in the same way. We cannot worship God and ignore those for whom God cares. We must as followers of Jesus be people who are committed to eliminating poverty and injustice and oppression because those are the very things that our God is also committed to eliminate.
Since our God is committed to them, do we even have to ask the question “why should we?”
Prayer of The Day
“Lord Jesus, increase my hunger for you and show me the way that leads to everlasting happiness and peace. May I desire you above all else and find perfect joy in doing your will.”
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.