Let me set the background, the setting, for our Gospel today. Immediately prior to the passage we have from St. Luke’s Gospel, Jesus had gone up a mountain to pray. He spent the whole night in prayer. In the morning He called to Himself His disciples, His followers, and from them Jesus chose twelve that He named “Apostles”. Then Jesus came down the mountain with the Twelve to a level space.
There on the level space were a lot of people forming sort of concentric circles around Jesus. First there are the Twelve Apostles, then the disciples, then we are told “a large number of people from all Judea and Jerusalem”. These would have been Jews. But that is not all. Finally, there is a crowd from “the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon.” These coastal people would have been gentiles, pagans, non-Jews. So this is a mixed group, representing all people, with Jesus in the center.
However, Jesus does not address the whole group. The Gospel states, “And raising his eyes toward his disciples he said:” Jesus addresses His disciples. That is us. You and me. We are disciples.
Where are we in this Gospel? Well we are not Apostles. Hopefully, we are not pagans. Nor are we Jews. We here at St Austin parish are called to be DISCIPLES. And so Jesus is addressing US.
“Blessed are you…” The word “you” here is Greek is PLURAL. In English we only have the word “you” for both individuals and for groups. But this is clearly plural. It would sort of be as if Jesus said, “Blessed are yous guys…” He is addressing us a group of disciples.
“Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours.” Jesus is not speaking here of material poverty but rather of poverty of spirit. That is, Jesus is talking about those who know their need for God. Those who are wise enough, and perceptive enough, to know that everything they have is gift: the family they were born into, the opportunities they have been given, their health and energy, their education, the spiritual formation they have received, indeed even their very life, is all gift. It is not something they have accomplished, but something they have freely received. And the result of this recognition is gratitude. Gratitude.
Gratitude and this sense of poverty of spirit are very close. And so Jesus assures us, “the kingdom of heaven is yours.”
“Blessed are you who are now hungry,” hungering and thirsting for the Kingdom of God, for God’s Will to be done on earth, hungering for an end to injustice, for an end to environmental degradation; thirsting for justice and for peace. “You will be satisfied” Jesus promises.
“Blessed are you who are now weeping” over racism, xenophobia, hatred, anti-Semitism, gay bashing, and all forms of discrimination. You will laugh with joy over righteousness and justice in the Kingdom of God.
“Blessed are you when people hate you, and they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man.” To suffer persecution and rejection for following Jesus, for doing what is right and what is decent and good, draws you incredibly close and deep into His fullness of life, and is a blessing far, far greater than any passing discomfort or suffering.
That is what we as a community, as a parish, are called to.
“But woe to you who are rich,” and self-satisfied, and don’t need anyone else, and think you can do and get away with whatever you want.
And “Woe to you who are filled now,” so full of yourselves that you do not think you need anyone else and have no care for anyone else.
“Woe to you who laugh now” and pay no attention and give no care to children jailed on the border, to families desperately seeking safety and a new life, to the poor, the sick, the oppressed, to protect and care for children yet to be born, but instead fill your days with mindless and ceaseless entertainments, with gadgets and high-tech toys, to avert your attention from the real pain around you.
“Woe to you when all speak well of you” because you have conformed yourself so well to the ways of this world, and fit in so seamlessly and unobtrusively with the crowd, the conventional wisdom, and all the ways of this world.
Blessings and woes. Addressed to us. ¿Where are we as a community, as St Austin Catholic Parish?