Most of us are a long way from “Woe!”
We’re not among the rich “one percent”; our lives could hardly be considered “full.” We work hard to provide for our families, we suffer and grieve our losses, we carry on regardless of the setbacks and disappointments, and we pay the price for our mistakes.
So we don’t see ourselves as among those Jesus warns “Woe to you . . . ”
But we know, too, that we’re not exactly among Jesus’ “blessed,” either.
Our care for our families, our work and studies, our responsibilities to those who depend on us, our engagement with our neighbourhood and community consume our time and energy. The poor in our midst, the needy in our town or city, the grieving, the persecuted and vulnerable barely register with us. Not because we don’t care but because we’re overwhelmed with our own busy, demanding lives.
No, we’re not among the “Woe to’s”.
But we’re some distance away from the “blessed.”
Most of us are “almost — but not quite.”
We pray for the coming of God’s Kingdom — but the price for bringing that Kingdom to reality in our lives is more than we can afford.
We feel for the poor and grieving — but our own families have to come first.
We abhor injustice and bigotry — but we have our own careers and status to protect.
We follow Jesus — until following Jesus puts us in a difficult position or forces us to make a hard choice to take a definite stand. Yeah, Jesus, we get your point — but we’re can’t fully commit.
We’re almost there — but not quite.
And on that muddy middle ground is where we stay. But to follow Jesus, to live his Gospel, to take up his cross demands not just an awareness of the poverty and hunger of others but a sense of God’s compassion to include them in our concern and care. To be the among the “blessed” envisioned by Jesus means to put aside our own poverty and hunger and our own positions and reputations to extend the compassion of Jesus to others; to provide, regardless of the cost, safe places for the lost to return, the grieving to mourn, and to the wounded to heal. The “blessedness” Jesus speaks of in Luke’s Sermon on the Plain is a challenge to move beyond “almost” and “good enough” to realize God’s vision for humankind.