Then he looked up at his disciples and said: ‘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 when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice on that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets. ‘But 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.
We hear a lot about mental health these days, about people with a calm and cheerful exterior, but who are hurting inside. We hear a lot about people whose mental state would benefit enormously from a timely therapeutic intervention. But this is different – it’s about the blessedness of those who are not necessarily on top of their world.
Being citizens of the Kingdom is certainly not about cakes and ale – it can well be about personal sacrifice, as we seek to live the life of the Kingdom. We may even experience suffering – that can be the price of witness. On the other hand, the passage tells us about a great day which will come to those whose steadfastness in faith has carried them through – the spiritual reward of perseverance.
On the other hand, life may be treating you OK. You may be rich in this world’s goods, you may stand high in the opinion of others, but that is not what finally matters.
It’s the perfect riposte to those who rejoice in what has come to be called the prosperity gospel – the view that it you are living a good life, God’s will reward you in this world’s goods. It’s the perfect answer to self-righteous smugness.
It’s a reflection that you don’t have to be always cheerful to be healthy, but we are certainly not invited to immerse ourselves in chronic anxiety and depression. There is a blessing on those who are moved by the state of the world. There is an endorsement of the thoughtful and devout attitude. We are brought up short by the consideration that discipleship involves penetrating vision, deep thought and prayer, and sometimes perplexity about the way ahead. We are encouraged on our spiritual journey.
Proof us against the seduction of instant gratification but block for us the path down to masochistic gloom. Guide us along the pathway of perceptive sobriety and grant us the uncluttered perspective of wisdom and vision.
Give us the vision to understand what we see and to discern others of like inclination. May we pick out those whom it is right for us to follow and may we be empowered to lead those who seek to follow us. Amen