Blessed are the poor?

A sermon by COT student, Monyai Tebogo, on Luke 6:17-26, Luke’s version of the Beatitudes and Woes of Jesus.

Blessed are the poor?? Does that mean that God rejoices when I am in poverty and suffering? Why Jesus does says all the bad things are blessings and all the good things are woe?

I tried to imagine the society of that time as if it were like of today where we all divided into classes… and indeed most of the time people group themselves according to their class…. the poor interacts mostly with the poor… the literate usually associates themselves with the literates….

Thinking of all this… How then can I be blessed for being poor… how can I be blessed for being hungry… how can I be blessed for weeping…? I am a mother… how can I rejoice waking up ad having nothing to give to my daughter to eat… nothing to give her to dress to go presentable to school… Who wants that kind of blessing??? Who rejoices in poverty and suffering…?

Actually in our society seems that Jesus words are null and void… they don’t really fit in our reality… because we all want to be rich… we all want to afford to buy a nice car… we all want to afford big houses with extra-large LED Tv’s… We all want to afford to go for holidays overseas… we want to afford expensive insurances and medical aids… that is what we want… that’s the kind of woe that we want…

I imagine a poor person who might have walked miles to go and listen to Jesus… the man whom many believed was the Messiah who would deliver them from the unrest and struggles they were facing… the poor who might have thought today I will get my jackpot listening to Jesus… and all that he gets is “Blessed are the poor”… wait Jesus… being blesses for being poor… that was not what I signed up for… if I was one of those people I would have left immediately without giving him time to explain himself… because these kinds of blessings I think I can happily do without! I can really happily do without.

On the other side, there is this group of rich people… standing there who might the most important people amongst their peers… well known and well respected…. Who see themselves as the happiest and fulfilled people in town because they got everything… There are also there listening with a huge smile because they believe they are blessed because they made it in life… some maybe brag about all that they has… other maybe they help the poor… maybe they help the widow… maybe they pay they tithes and offer sacrifices regularly in the temple… and maybe they are there waiting for Jesus to say good things about them… but instead Jesus said “Woe to you who are rich”…..and the smile fades slowly… sadness come to their faces…

Friend this brings confusion… believe in me… I am also confused… I am sure we love to listen to Jesus curing people… exorcising demons and rebuking the unjust authorities… calling them into order… resurrecting his friend who was long dead… we do love when we hear Jesus saying and doing this kind of things… but what about these teachings?

And when Jesus goes on to say “woe” to those who are rich, those who are full, those who laugh, and those who are spoken well of, do we hear Him speaking to us? Because if we have to compare ourselves with those men and women who come every Thursday morning to search in the rubbish bags in our street looking for something to eat… or something to take home to feed their families… the truth is that we are rich… some studies show that if we have running water, shelter over our heads, clothes to wear, food to eat, and transport even if it’s public transportat then we are in the top 15 percent of the world’s people for wealth!!! So is Jesus speaking about us??

Friends I believe that these blessings are not just a set of guidelines or principles to establish who is blessed and who is cursed… I believe that they are a way of life, a way of proceeding. I guess Jesus does not directly preach a morality. It proclaims the “irruption” of grace, love, mercy, and the justice of God in the history of humanity.

Somehow Jesus is proclaiming good news that happy are those who are considered helpless, oppressed and marginalized, but who have kept their trust their faith in God alive… the blessedness of each one is in close relation with the happiness of the others, with whom each one lives and shares the faith, and even the struggle…

I know that for many… including myself that Jesus words of blessedness and woes… sound at first glance as unrealistic, impractical, not possible to be put into practice in the world in which we live…

In fact, in our context… and in many places we can perceive a deaf resistance to the blessedness, not because our hearts do not recognize themselves in them, but because they seem so impossible, so far we are from them… we live plunged in so many contradictions, deep dramas and violence that seem to deny them… We are troubled by Jesus message of humility, meekness, peace, purity, mercy … when in reality we are involved in building, in fomenting a world that is arrogant, aggressive, violent, intolerant, excluding, unjust …

God does not want pain, sorrow, suffering to his children… God does not rejoice in the suffering and poverty of his people… I believe that God wants the opposite… I believe that God wants his children… God want us to be fully realized, and that we may live happily…

My friends… Jesus shows us where true happiness is… In Luke’s gospel, the blessedness are accompanied by painful imprecations by those who do not accept the message of salvation, closing in on a self-sufficient and selfish life… As Fr. Mike said “With the blessedness and imprecations, Jesus makes an application of the doctrine of the two paths: the way of life and the way of death. There is no third, neutral possibility: anyone who does not follow the path of life goes to death; He who does not follow the light, lives in darkness.”

In proclaiming blessed are the poor, the ones who are weeping, the ones that are persecuted, the humble… and etc… Surely Jesus never wanted to sacralise human pain… Jesus is aware and he notices the situation of the people, of poverty, humiliation, submission… Jesus perceives the effort that the people make to change the situation… thus he proclaims it happy in this search, because this search dwells in the very heart of God…

Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (Lk 6,20). This blessedness is the foundation of all others, for whoever is poor will be able to receive the Kingdom of God as a gift. He who is poor knows what things to hunger and thirst for… not of material goods, but of the Word of God… not of power, but of justice and love… Whoever is poor can cry in the face of the suffering of the world… He who is poor knows that God is all his wealth and that he will suffer misunderstandings and persecutions.

Even though it might not be a general case… I believe that in the eyes of Jesus nothing is more dangerous to the human being than lives satisfied, accommodated, without desires, without the affection of the waits and the restlessness of the searches… hearts that are quiet, indolent, treacherous, cowardly, petrified, sensibly content with what they are and have… thus neglecting the search for God…

But woe to you who are rich, because you have your consolation” (Lk 6:24). This cursing is also the foundation of all that follows, for whoever is rich and self-sufficient, who does not know how to put his wealth in the service of others, he closes himself in his selfishness and builds his own misfortune…

Therefore my friends… May God free us from the desire for riches, to follow the promises of the world and to put our hearts in material goods… that God does not allow us to be satisfied with human praises and flatteries, since it means to have put our hearts in the glory of the world and not in that of Jesus Christ.