What an audience Jesus had in today’s Gospel! “A great crowd of His disciples, and a large number of people from all over Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon.” Disciples, pagans, and devout Jews gathered together to hear Jesus speak at the Sermon on the Mount. All of these people had something in common. God was someone to be bargained with; and if God liked you, you were rewarded with good fortune. This Sunday, Jesus tells us a different story. “Woe to you who are rich – who are filled now – who laugh – when all speak well of you. Blessed are you who are poor – you who are now hungry – when people hate you and when they exclude you and insult you.” Jesus completely flips the script on what it means to be blessed by God. What He proclaims as “woe” are states of life we often strive for; and “blessed” are the states we work hard to avoid!
Jesus is concerned with the Kingdom of God and the world to come; not the typical structures of power and privilege. The word “now” appears often in these statements. Why? If you are well “now,” that’s beside the point. To be rich in this life has no direct bearing on your immortal soul. If you’re struggling “now,” that’s not an indication that God has forgotten you or that – in light of eternity – you’re worse off than someone else. In fact, it could be an indicator that you’re enduring something that will bring you to a place of greater, eternal joy in the future.
This Sunday, consider your priorities. Who do we reject as not blessed, and thereby inflict woe upon ourselves? When we encounter difficult situations in our own lives; do we see them as opportunities to remember God and lean on His mercy and grace?