Luke’s Beatitudes

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Luke’s Beatitudes: (Luke 6:17, 20-26)

Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.
Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you and defame you on account of the Son of Man.
Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven;
for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.
Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.
Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry.
Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep.
Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.

Luke turns the original beatitudes of Matthew around in several ways by shortening and compressing them, adding the list of woes, and most importantly, directs the blessings and woes to those who are rich as well as to the poor. Luke presumes that Jesus is addressing a crowd that includes both the disciples, who are among the poorest members of society, and those who stand among the privileged. Jesus invites the materially wealthy to stand on the same level ground with the poor. He offers them the opportunity to choose to become one with the poor for the sake of the Reign of God.

Even though these beatitudes may sound somewhat pessimistic, Jesus is encouraging his listeners to be a part of his Kingdom begun here on earth. Jesus announced his mission with a promise of happiness. “I have come that you may have joy and that your joy may be complete.” He promised that he was with us always as “the way, the truth and the life.” Jesus came to offer life, not pain and suffering.

In these beatitudes Jesus is offering us a choice. Jesus offers abundant life, but leaves no doubt that to attain it, we have to make some significant changes in our attitudes and behaviors. Being poor and experiencing hunger and sadness are not blessings in themselves, but in retrospect, can certainly be seen as blessings in disguise. Rarely do we change anything about ourselves until our discomfort level rises to unacceptable levels. Most people don’t seek medical attention until an illness is already full of symptoms. Most alcoholics don’t begin recovering from their addiction until they have hit rock bottom. Until a divorce is imminent, most couples don’t seek marriage counseling. Until our clothes no longer fit, we don’t begin to diet or exercise. Suffering can push us to take care of ourselves and make changes like nothing else can.

Rather than resign ourselves to our troubles, or complain about our hardships, we need to take a proactive approach toward whatever is causing us difficulty. There is something we are meant to learn or do to make things better. Pain, mental or physical, tells us in no uncertain terms that something has to change. Whatever it is, there is a blessing in disguise, a lesson in every suffering we endure.

Jesus tells us there are woes as well as blessings. St. Paul knew we had to die with Christ to experience new life in Christ. It is this motivation that makes any suffering blessed. Without the occasional “curse or woe” in our lives, our spiritual development would never advance.

Reflection questions

  1. With which blessings among the beatitudes are you most comfortable? Why?
  2. Which blessings or woes most challenge you? Why?

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