||back to Homilies
February 15, 2004
Today we’re talking blessings
and woes, blessings meaning all the gifts and graces that God gives us,
and woes, meaning the opposite, all the curses that we take upon ourselves.
St. Francis said, for Jesus, everything is upside down. As far as Jesus
is concerned, everything the world blesses is really a woe, a curse; and
everything the world curses is really a blessing. His values are completely
the opposite of the world’s.
Luke’s Beatitudes begin with a little geography. Instead of the Sermon
on the Mount, as we have in Matthew, we have here the Sermon on the Plain.
We are specifically told that a huge crowd has gathered around Jesus on
“stretch of level ground.” Then we read, “And raising
his eyes to his disciples, he said…” What does that mean? I
think Jesus was kneeling down in prayer, with the crowd standing around
him, and he looked up, almost begging them, kneeling before them, to hear
his wisdom, his great sermon of nonviolence.
Then he announced: “Blessed are you who are the poor, for the reign
of God is yours.” Blessed are the hungry and the weeping. Blessed
are you when people hate you, when they exclude you, insult you and denounce
your name as evil because you are trying to follow the Gospel of Jesus.
These are difficult and powerful sayings, but in a strange way, they’re
very consoling because it means God is with us as we share the life of Jesus,
as we try to share his poverty, his hunger, his tears, his suffering and
persecution and crucifixion. When we do, we are blessed.
In particular, I like that Jesus does not say, “Blessed are the poor
for the reign of God will be yours, or might be yours, or someday could
be yours.” He says, “Blessed are the poor for the reign of God
IS yours.” It’s yours right now, today, this very minute. It
belongs to you. You may not have much, you may not have millions, but you
have the one thing you need, the only thing that really matters, the reign
of God. You live with God, so you are blessed.
But then, we have the woes. “Woe to you who are rich. Woe to you who
are filled. Who to you who laugh. Woe to you when everyone speaks well of
you!” I think Jesus is saying that in this world of terrible poverty,
widespread starvation, massive suffering, with 35 wars, with 25,000 nuclear
weapons, with our country killing and occupying millions of suffering Iraqis,
in this world of unjust death, if you’ve made it, if you are a success,
if you are rich and comfortable and have everything you need, then you start
not to need God, and before you know it, you are in grave trouble. You have
everything but the one thing necessary--the reign of God. You are not blessed.
Here in New Mexico, we have all had times in our lives when we have been
poor, in one way or another. We have all had times in our lives when we
have been hungry (and next week, as we begin the Holy Season of Lent on
Ash Wednesday, we‘re all going to fast and be hungry). We’ve
all had times in our lives when we have wept and been sorrowful. We’ve
all had times when people have hated us or excluded us or insulted us or
denounced us because of our stand for the Gospel of Jesus.
Given all of that, did you hear the new commandment that Jesus issues to
us this morning? “Rejoice! Leap for joy!” He wants us to rejoice
when these things happen because we are headed for heaven, because we are
sharing in his life, because we are greatly blessed.
So you’re homework assignment this week is to leap for joy! Let’s
all practice being joyful! Let’s get ready for joy, because from now
on, you are blessed. The reign of God is yours.
Close this window.