Good News From On High
When Jesus gives his Beatitudes in Mathew and Mark, he first climbs a mountain, as if to indicate that what he is going to say is as yet above his hearers, an ideal, a promised outcome of the long climb ahead.
When he gives his Beatitudes in Luke, he comes down from the mountain into the plain, at the level where his listeners are assembled. Those listeners had come from all parts of Judea, from Jerusalem, Tyre and Sidon. They had come, so the Gospel explains, to hear him and be cured. They were men and women who had left their homes, jobs, worries and opportunities behind them. They had come a long way to hear him and to be helped by him.
Then, looking at them, fixing his eyes on his disciples, Jesus says: how happy are the poor in spirit you who are poor, you who are hungry, you who weep now. What did he mean? Surely he wasn’t insinuating that poverty with its squalor, hunger, starvation, lack of healthcare, etc., was good and made people happy? Of course not. How could he? He was, on the contrary, speaking to people and about people who were hoping to have all that changed.
We’re told that he came down from the mountain after a night of prayer. As he came down, he saw those hundreds, maybe thousands, waiting for him. What had they come for? They had come looking for a change. They had come to see and to listen. They had come because they considered themselves poor, hungry, thirsty, ignorant and sad. They had come because they were eager for change, greater human dignity, greater justice and some joy in their lives.
That is why Jesus praises them and blesses them. Those people, who considered themselves poor and helpless, were (and are) the hope of this world. The ones willing to listen to him. And there is great hope because of that willingness. A hope not present in those who stayed at home, thinking they already knew, that they already had their consolation, laughing at any change or its possibility.
Jesus praised those who had come because they were willing to listen. He told them that if they continued to listen, everything would change. A new human alternative would be possible. But He also told them that they would encounter strong opposition and be hated, accused, denounced and treated as criminals.
And yet, he told them: be happy, because you are right. The change you hunger for will happen and you will help bring it about by being faithful to my words and drawing strength from me in prayer.
How happy are you poor ……