Jesus’ words in the gospel today seem backwards to us. Blessings to the poor but woes to the rich. We all want to win the lottery. Blessings to the hungry but woes to those who have their fill. No one wants to go hungry. Blessings to those who weep and woes to those who laugh. Blessings to the rejected and woes to the popular.
Whenever Jesus’ teachings confuse us, I believe it is our task to search for the deeper spiritual truths found in those teachings.
What does it mean to be poor? Poor in spirit? A feeling of poverty, like something is missing. Lonely. Inadequate. Having poor self esteem. Not being courageous enough.
People who are rich are sometimes poor because they already have all they want and are still not happy.
When we’re are feeling this way, Jesus says we are blessed. Why? Because we can recognize our reliance on God. We can turn to Jesus and ask him to make us rich in the things that matter to God.
What does it mean to be hungry? Maybe we have a hunger for something other than food. Feeling empty inside. A longing. A desire. Having a sense of not being fulfilled. A hunger and thirst for justice, perhaps, or for a meaningful life.
People who are full are sometimes empty inside because being full might not take away the emptiness inside.
When we’re feeling this way Jesus says we are blessed. Why? Because we can ask Jesus to fill our hungers with whatever is lacking.
We know what it means to be hated or ridiculed or rejected. We know what it feels like to lick our wounds, not fitting in, treated like an outcast, not knowing where to sit during lunch at school.
People who are popular are sometimes sad because all their friends are only social, the kind who disappear when things get rough.
How can Jesus say we are blessed when this happens? Maybe Jesus is saying, “I love you just the way you are. Stop trying to be someone else just to fit in. Follow me rather than seeking acceptance from the crowd.”
If we can embrace poverty and hunger and rejection, then we are on our way to finding riches and fulfillment and acceptance.
Jeremiah says to trust in the Lord, to hope in the Lord. So we ask the Lord to make us rich in kindness and grace and mercy. We ask the Lord to fill us with goodness and compassion. And we ask the Lord to sooth the wounds of rejection and ridicule. In this way, we are truly blessed.