Blest and Woe….tough words to hear and to wrestle with aren’t they?
Especially if we only approach them with our current western European mindset.
Poor, hungry, weeping, hated….those are hardly qualities of being blest in our understanding…
When I was homeless, in the throws of addiction and living on the street, I can assure you I did not feel blest, holy or even remotely connected to God….
When now I have a job, a roof over my head and heat, food, family and friends, I certainly do enjoy a bit of luxury to ponder and pray that I did not even fathom when homeless and on the street.
So to read and hear this Gospel perisope with that set of lenses, it makes absolutely no sense what so ever.
But if we look back at the world of Jesus and the culture of his life…these terms take on entirely different meanings.
Poor had nothing to do with economy, but rather with class or caste….the poor were those who were powerless in society.
That is why often in scriptures we hear widows and orphans associated with poor…the voiceless, not the economically downtrodden.
There is no glory in poverty.
Rich, likewise had nothing to do with economic reality, and had everything to do with the exercise of power over others. The “rich” of Luke’s gospel were those who could use, manipulate, extort and control the lives of others for their own benefit.
All the beatitudes of both Luke and those of Matthew have meanings which can not be interpreted using the mindset or understanding of 21st century Americans.
So what then is the point….
There is a context…We have to go back to the Scriptures and look…what had just happened? What does this story flow from and where does it flow to?
The Jesus of Luke’s Gospel had just been through a series of attacks from religious leaders…over forgiveness of sin and work on the Sabbath….he had retreated to the Mountain with his closest followers to pray….and he had chosen twelve of those followers to be his closest companions on the rest of the journey.
Luke’s account is full of rich imagery…some of which has been left out for this particular reading…so lets look at it….
Remember what we said earlier about power….having spent his time in prayer…Jesus was tuned in…if you will…he literally was….In the Spirit—scripture says…power was flowing from him…it was healing and curing all.
Power was not being used to extort or coerce or cajole or deplete anyone….it was flowing out, healing, restoring and rejuvenating those who were gathering around him…
He was living the Beatitudes to which he ended up giving voice….
It was as if he was using his experience of prayer to call into question his lived experience.
I wonder what our prayer calls us to question about our lived experience.
We live at an amazing time in history.
We are connected with each other and the broader world in ways that a mere decade ago were not even imagined.
We have more computing power in our pocket than Apollo 13 had on the entire flight and expedition.
We have a generation of young people who have never known not having the internet in their back pocket!
One would think that our holiness would be growing in direct proportion to our ability to connect with one another….but somehow we still encounter our own selfishness, our own fear, and our own sinfulness.
Yet I believe our faith holds us in hope….hope in that we can share the holiness to which Jesus gave voice in these beatitudes.
But faith and hope and love, they all require intention on our part.
Intention to live the Gospel out loud
Intention to speak with compassion
Intention to listen with depth
Intention to flood our world with Grace.
We are a Catholic Community with one primary purpose….to infuse the world with the passion, tenderness and grace of God….
We say it at the beginning of every mass….
The question and challenge we face now is this: How do we live it even more every day?