Tuesday, September 6, 2016

"BLEST ARE YOU POOR."


Homily for September 7th, 2016: Luke 6: 20-26
How many people here would like to be poor? To be hungry? To be weeping and hated by everybody? If I asked for a show of hands to those questions, how may would go up? Suppose, however, that I asked some different questions: How many of you would like to be rich, well fed, laughing, and well spoken of by all? Aren=t those things we all want? 
How, then, can Jesus pronounce a blessing on those who are poor, hungry, weeping and hated? Are those things good? Of course not! Yet Jesus calls those who suffer these things Ablessed@ C  which means Ahappy.@ To understand why, we must look again at what Jesus says at the end of these beatitudes: Aon account of the Son of man.@ Things evil in themselves C poverty, hunger, weeping, hatred, exclusion C become good when they are the price we must pay for choosing to stand with Jesus Christ. 
When Luke wrote his gospel, almost all Jesus= followers were Jews. Deciding to follow Jesus meant being disowned by family members and exclusion from the synagogue. The passage we just heard immediately follows yesterday’s call of the twelve apostles. How do you suppose they felt? They could hardly have been overjoyed. They faced alienation from their friends, loss of their livelihoods, hatred, and much grief. To these frightened, tearful men, uncertain about what they are getting into, Jesus speaks the words we heard in the gospel: “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 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.”

          Where do we stand? With the frightened Twelve whom Jesus calls blessed? Or with the young man who went away from Jesus sorrowful because he was rich? Let=s not be too sure that Jesus= woes aren=t for us just because we=re not rich. Jesus is not talking about the size of our bank accounts. He is talking about the cost of discipleship. That cost can be high, no doubt about it.  How could they be otherwise when the One who asks these costs of us paid the highest cost of all: life itself. 

          Jesus= words in today=s gospel are his encouragement to people who wonder what they have let themselves in for, who wonder if the cost of following Jesus Christ may not be too high. He is speaking them again now, to each one of us. “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 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.”