Word for the day by Christian Education Forum
End of fifteen days lent
v20 "Blessed are you who are poor..."
What is the true source of joy and happiness that so many find to be elusive? Jesus begins his teaching on the way of the kingdom of heaven by addressing where true happiness is found.
The Gospel today presents four blessings and four curses in Luke’s Gospel. Some call this discourse the “discourse on the plain” because, according to Luke, Jesus came down from the mountain and stopped in a place which was flat and there He pronounced His discourse. In Matthew’s Gospel, the same discourse is given on a mountain (Mt 5:1) and is called “The Sermon on the Mount.” In Matthew’s discourse there are eight Beatitudes, which trace a programme of life for the Christian communities. In Luke, the sermon is shorter and more radical. It contains only four Beatitudes and four curses. 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.
• Luke 6:20: “Blessed are you, poor, the Kingdom of Heaven is yours!” This declaration identifies the social category of the disciples. They are poor! And Jesus promises them, “The Kingdom is yours!” It is not a promise made for the future. The verb used here is in the present tense. The Kingdom alreadybelongs to them in the present. They are blessed now. They are the poor who have the spirit of Jesus. Like Jesus, they do not want to accumulate, but they assume their poverty and with Him, they strive for a just life together, where there will be fraternity and sharing of goods, without any discrimination.
• Luke 6:21-22: “Blessed are you, who now hunger and weep.” In the second and third Beatitude, Jesus says, “Blessed are you who are hungry now, because you shall have your full! Blessed are you, who are weeping now, you shall laugh!”. What we live and suffer now is not definitive; however, the Kingdom of God which we are constructing with the force of the spirit of Jesusis definitive. To construct this Kingdom, presupposes pain, suffering and persecution, but what’s certain is thatthe Kingdom will be attained, and you will have your fill and you will laugh!
• Luke 6:23: “Blessed are you when people hate you...!”Rejoice when that day comes and dance for joy, look, your reward will be great in heaven. This was the way your ancestors treated the prophets!”. With these words of Jesus, Luke encourages the persecutedcommunities of his time. Suffering is not a death rattle, but rather it is like birth pangs. It is a source of hope! Persecution was a sign that the future, as announced by Jesus, was arriving. The communities were following the right path.
• Luke 6:24-25: “Alas for you who are rich!” Alas for you who now have your fill and who laugh! In front of Jesus, on the plains, there are no rich people. There are only sick and poor people, who have come from all parts (Lk 6:17-19). But Jesus says: “Alas for you the rich!” Luke, in transmitting these words of Jesus, is thinking more of the communities of his time. In those communities there were rich and poor people, and there was discrimination against the poor by the rich.Jesusdirectly criticizes the rich: You rich have already received consolation! You are already filled, but you are still hungry! Now you are laughing, but you will be afflicted and will weep! For Jesus, poverty is the fruit of unjust enrichment by the affluent.
• Luke 6:26: “Alas for you when everyone speaks well of you, because this was the way their ancestors treated the false prophets!” This refers to the sons of those, who in the past, praised the false prophets; because some authorities of the Jews used their prestige and power to criticize Jesus.
How then 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 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. Do you know the joy and happiness of hungering and thirsting for God alone?
"Lord, 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."
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY
God being with us is the cause of our blessedness
Christian Education Forum, Diocese of NAE of the Mar Thoma Church