So in Luke’s Gospel Jesus names those who are blessed and those whom woe will come upon if they don’t change their lives. We normally focus on the blessings and not on the woes but the “woes” are there for a reason -- to warn us! To get us to reflect on our lives and how we are living with the poor and the hungry, how we are comforting the weeping and how we treat those hated on account of Jesus.
In Matthew’s account of the sermon of the beatitudes he says “blessed are the poor in sprit” while Luke writes of Jesus’ sermon as, “blessed are the poor”, a very different message I would say. In Jesus’ socioreligious reality his contemporaries believed the poor were poor because they had done something that angered God. And that the wealthy were rich because they had gained the favor of God and were blessed by God. Jesus is preaching the exact opposite of this understanding of how God relates to human beings. Luke’s Gospel is often referred to as the Gospel of the poor, or the Gospel of women, or the Gospel of the marginalized. It is so referred to because these are the categories of persons who are raised up in Luke’s Gospel, to a greater extent than in the other two synoptic gospels.
In both Matthew and in Luke, Jesus calls blessed all those who are hated, excluded, insulted or denounced on account of him. It is an important proclamation that Jesus utters as in fact many of his disciples and the apostles will eventually be denounced, some imprisoned and others even martyred for their faith in Jesus. He promises them that in spite of what they suffer on account of their allegiance to him, they will not be abandoned by Jesus and that they are “the blessed ones”.
I think ultimately that the beatitudes and the woes we encounter in Luke’s Gospel challenge us and call us to holiness through reaching out to the poor and to all who are excluded and marginalized, to all who suffer in this world. And we are promised that to the extent that we reach out to the suffering, to the extent that we “do justice,” we will become more fully “the blessed of God” and find fulfillment and happiness in our lives through helping to build up the Reign of God!
As we take time this week to reflect on this Gospel let us focus on one of the beatitudes and ask ourselves; in what concrete ways might I live this out today? Who is grieving that I might comfort, hungry that I might feed, poor that I might reach out to and offer a hand?