The Gospel according to Luke (6:20-26)
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.”
REFLECTION: In today’s Gospel, Jesus was essentially condemning four common sins—greed, gluttony, overindulgence, and boastfulness—and promoting their opposite virtues. So, I ask you; is it dangerous to be rich, to be filled, to laugh, and to have all speak well of you? According to Jesus, it appears so. Why would Jesus warn against these things? And before that, why would He pronounce it blessed to be poor, hungry, weeping and insulted?
What Jesus teaches in this passage—and in all the Lucan Beatitudes—is that a Christian can only find consolation in one place: within the Holy Spirit. None of the things which Jesus preaches against is bad. The evil which twists and deviates these good things, however, is the temptation to rest in them. Material wealth, though not a sin in and of itself, brings with it many temptations toward attachment, self-reliance, and self-indulgence. It is when we root money, letting it control us, it is then, that it becomes that source of evil that Christ is preaching against. One common tendency among those with material wealth is to rationalize that even though they have many things, they are detached from them. Hopefully that is the case.
“Laughing” and “weeping” in this case of today’s Gospel are not referring to joy and despair. Rather, they are referring to those who are always seeking fun and an indulgent life. Weeping refers to those who have discovered that the fleeting pleasures of the world can never satisfy. Constant entertainment brings with it a real temptation, whereas the loss of that form of fleeting pleasure helps eliminate that temptation.
Finally, Jesus declares it blessed to be hated, excluded, insulted, and denounced as evil on account of Him rather than being spoken well of by all. In this case, Jesus is referring to the praise that comes from things that mean nothing from an eternal perspective. When all speak well of us, praising qualities and accomplishments that are not true Christian virtues, we will be tempted to rely upon that praise for our satisfaction. But this form of satisfaction is nothing other than vainglory and never truly satisfies in the end.
May the grace of the sacraments help us to offer all our pleasures in life to God and admit that none of them can save us from being rooted in this world.
ACTION FOR THE DAY: Reflect, today, upon the concrete spiritual blessings that come to those who are literally poor, hungry, temperate, and humble. Reflect, especially, upon the beatitude that is most difficult to embrace, and make that beatitude the source of reflection and prayer. Doing so with honesty and openness will result in you being among those who are truly blessed in the eyes of God.