LUKE 6: 20-26

HAPPY THE POOR FOR YOURS IS THE KINGDOM OF GOD.  This translation of the words of Jesus differs somewhat from the one used in the Gospel reading today, but renders Luke's Greek text more literally.  It is also more faithful to the Syriac version, written in a language that is far closer to the Aramaic that our Lord employed as he addressed this large crowd of poor who had seen him work miraculous healings.  His audience included persons from a wide area many of whom were suffering from various illnesses, physical and psychological.  In fact, it seems that both Luke and Matthew in their separate accounts of this sermon of Jesus, made use of an older source recorded in Aramaic.

These facts help us to appreciate more keenly the message that our Lord has for us here today.  If we were to transpose our Lord's words in their original meaning and announce them in modern terms, they might read like this: "Jesus, after healing many afflicted with a variety of sufferings, gave out the following encouragement to the many who had come for help.   Obviously, he was concerned to raise the minds and hearts of his audience from their passionate concerns with material and physical needs to more spiritual and long-term values.   He said in effect: Happy are you jobless, happy too are you who are threatened with the loss of your homes, you who cannot afford adequate medical treatment, you who mourn the loss of loved ones in war, and you who suffer loss from the floods and fires that ravage our land for yours is the kingdom of God."

The circumstances of life have changed greatly in the many centuries since Jesus preached the Kingdom of God in the land of his ancestors, but the human needs are very similar today, and no less challenging to all of us.   And yet, the message full of hope continues to be heard.   Then as now his words are rejected.   They seem too utopian, not realistic enough, too concerned with another world than this earth.   But, as our Lord foresaw, some few would take them to heart and trusted our Lord's proclamation of hope and believe his promise.   We who do believe he has the word of life and salvation know we are our selves among the poor, the sick, and needy whom he alone can heal.

Of course, there is this difference for us today: we are confident that he who first preached this message of encouragement, has meantime, given himself for us even unto death so as to make the happiness he proclaimed available to us.   He not only died that we might live, he rose to eternal life that he might live in us and enable even us to enter into the Father's presence.   What he asks of us for now is that we show our trust and faith in him by accepting his teaching and living by it, looking to him for the strength and dedication we need to prove faithful.   These are the realities we thank him for and that we celebrate here this morning at this Eucharist.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger