“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man” (Lk 6:22).
The Beatitudes are contrary to much of what too many of us are tempted by when seeking our satisfaction, security, and fulfillment and that is power, fame, wealth, pleasure, and celebrity. What is more, how many of us who proclaim to be people of faith resist Jesus’ teachings because of our own anxieties, fears, and self-centered reasons?
In today’s Gospel account from Luke, Jesus taught his disciples how to attain the kingdom through five blessings and four woes. Jesus’ message is a universal message, an invitation to and for all who have ears to hear and a heart open to receive. Yet, these teachings challenge us to place our trust, not the things of this world, for that which is finite and material are fleeting and passing, but in Jesus. By placing our trust in Jesus, he will lead us to his Father, and it is in building that relationship that we will experience true happiness and fulfillment.
This is an inviting offer, yet when putting Jesus’ teachings into practice in our everyday lives we will receive opposition. To live in accord with Jesus is to identify with the poor, the hungry, those who mourn, and to speak the truth to power and those in authority, within and without of the Church. This we are to do even when we risk being hated, excluded, insulted, and denounced as evil. We are also to resist the lure and attachment to the false promise of a security believed to be found in material wealth, thinking that we can have all the food, drink, clothes, friends, and happiness that money can buy. These are only apparent goods, and if we seek to be fulfilled by them solely, we will be left empty and wanting more time and again. Pursuing the material and finite to fill our deepest hunger, can also lead us into being ensnared by attachment and addiction.
To be blessed, to be happy, to be fulfilled in this life is fleeting, but we can experience it to a degree if we are more willing to be unattached to the things of this world, and instead, be anchored in building a relationship with Jesus. If we are serious about being his disciple, then a good place to start is learning and living the beatitudes. This is no easy task, but when we live and proclaim the Gospel in our day and time, “we will rejoice and leap for joy” (Lk 6:23)! Joy because we can experience the good things that God gives us, but not be ensnared by them, because we are fueled by the love of Jesus, the source of our joy, which wells up from within and never runs dry!
For, Jesus was not just an amazing teacher, he is the Son of God, the wellspring of eternal life. He became one with us so that we can become one with him, one with us in our humanity so that we can become one with him in his divinity! The same “power that came forth from him” (Lk 6:19) to heal, to cast out demons, to teach the truth, is still active in our lives today through our participation in his life. Jesus is the kingdom of Heaven that is at hand and he will lead us, if we are willing to follow, to the ultimate desire and deepest craving and hunger of our being, to be in communion with God and one another. When we experience moments of the foretaste of our oneness with God in this life we experience true joy!
Photo: JoAnn had the greatest laugh, here displayed from this past March at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. May you experience a taste of God’s joy today!