The scandal of the beatitudes

Fortunate are you who are poor…
Woe to you who are rich…
Luke 6: 20, 24

A priest friend of mine once told me that a group from his parish wanted to erect a monument of the ten commandments on the church grounds at a corner many people pass by.

He was somewhat skeptical of doing this but thought of proposing to them that they should instead erect a monument with the beatitudes – Luke’s beatitudes!

What would happen if Christian churches erected monuments with the passage from today’s Gospel, Luke 6: 20-26.

Jesus is very clearly stating God’s preference for the poor, the hungry, and those who weep. Woe is the fate of you who are rich, filled, and laughing.

How very different from the culture around us that glorifies those who are rich, well-fed (but sleek), and able to laugh away all the troubles of the world.

You who are poor are favored by God – you are a sign of God’s reign. You are a sign that what God wants is community, not division. You are a continuing challenge to us who are well-fed.

You who are hungry will be satisfied and eat your full. You will not lack what you need, even as you pray and long each day for your daily bread.

You who weep will laugh. You who weep over your children dying from hunger or violence, who see your families fleeing from war, who hold the dying in your arms.

What would our churches look like if we not only posted the beatitudes our walls but tried to live them – accompanying in solidarity the poor, the hungry, the weeping.

What if we really were a church of the poor, really a poor church and not only a church for the poor. What if the poor were in the first place.

We would be changed – and at least a few small corners of the world would reveal signs of the reign of God in the midst of poverty, violence, and war.

This is not something which will happen over night, nor will it ever be fully accomplished by our deeds. But we have hope that our Risen Lord will help us live as He called us to live and that he will appear in glory to bring this to fulfillment.

In the meantime, let’s post Luke beatitudes in our churches – but above all let us write them in our hearts.



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