Sunday, February 14, 2010


Today’s Liturgy of the Word invites us to reflect on two fundamental choices: blessing or curse, life or death. We choose the best when we put our trust in the Lord and live according to this choice. Such is the message of the Beatitudes. The Lord should be our only Treasure, our Friend, our Guide, and our final Reward.

In this Eucharist we will pray in a special manner for the grace to always stay close to the Lord and live by the light of his Beatitudes. We will also pray for those who are blinded by their passions and the negative influence of the culture of death that surrounds us. May all see the light and live according to the teaching and example of Jesus.

Jesus came down with the Twelve and stood on a stretch of level ground with a great crowd of his disciples and a large number of the people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon.

And raising his eyes toward his disciples he said:

“Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours.

Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied.

Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh.

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. Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven. For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way.

But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry.

Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep.

Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way.”


If some of the Beatitudes in the Gospel of Matthew surprise us, all those in the Gospel of Luke shock us. In fact, they sound not only blunt, but alienating, as they project into a vague, unrealistic future the straightening up of situations that are definitely against our most natural aspirations.

A superficial reading of these four Beatitudes would easily lead us to conclude that Karl Marx was right when he stated that “religion is the opiate of the people.”

But a more attentive reading of both “Beatitudes” and “Woes” enables us to
realize that they are not a sort of consuelo de bobo, but a striking restatement, within the perspective of the Kingdom of God, of the ancient saying of the “two ways,” one of which leads to life and the other to death.

Behind those four shocking statements which call “Blest” people who suffer in one way or another, there lies the unstated reason for such “blessedness”: their trust in the Lord and their choice to build their life on Him. This is their “fundamental option,” rooted in humble faith. This is what brings them to rely fully on God’s love, faithfulness, wisdom, and justice, even in situations of poverty, hunger, pain, persecution, and any other form of suffering which human beings can experience on earth. What makes them blessed is not their condition of deprivation or rejection, but their basic attitude of trust in the Lord, while doing their best to cope with such arduous and challenging situations.

For those who build on such a solid foundation, even conditions of poverty,
hunger, pain, persecution and rejection – and any other form of suffering – will not be frightening or hopeless, for they do not last for ever. In the faith perspective of eternal life, what lasts for ever is the fulfillment of God’s plan and the reward which He has in store for those who have entrusted themselves to Him and have done their best to do His will.

It is this type of believers and doers, tested in the most adverse circumstances, whom Jesus calls “blessed,” for God will welcome them into His Kingdom. He will fully satisfy all their needs; He will amply make up for their past sufferings, and give them the reward of the saints. This is what the four Beatitudes of the Gospel of Luke are all about.

The four “woes” that follow focus on an opposite orientation in life. They speak about those who walk the road that leads to eternal death. They are the people for whom, apparently, things go well but who have committed the tragic mistake of trusting excessively in themselves and other creatures, giving to them the total priority which should be given to God alone. Their wrong choice has brought them to pin their expectation and hopes in something or someone that, in the end, will prove incapable of fulfilling them. Their situation is that of one who is building on the clouds or has entrusted one’s money to a bank that is doomed to go bankrupt.

Those who have made such a choice, may – for a time – feel rich, have all their cravings satisfied, enjoy life and popularity. But it won’t last, for nothing
lasts for ever in this life. And for as long as they make these enjoyments their highest aspirations – their gods! – their life orientation will remain a perversion, and its final outcome a complete failure. The road that seems so attractive and easy, in reality will turn out to be deceptive and treacherous, for it leads to irreparable disaster.

With his stern “woes” Jesus today warns all those who are walking “the road
of death” to realize the danger of their present situation and make an about-face before it is too late. And to those who are on “the road of life,” Jesus offers his encouragement to persevere in it, for that is the road of the Kingdom.