One thing we can be certain of, when Jesus speaks there will always be a twist. Life a subtle knife he cuts to the quick of our expectations.
The beatitudes, as presented in the Gospel of St. Luke are a two-edged sword. There are blessings, but there are also woes. In our proclamation of the Gospel, so often we are comforted by the blessings promised us. We are engaged with a message that proclaims peace in the midst of our daily experience of war, violence, abuse, and pain. We are nurtured by the promise that the coming of God’s kingdom in our midst will bring some relief, some solace from the sad trajectory of human history, a history, whether corporate or personal, often fraught with disappointment and disillusionment.
The woes of St. Luke’s Gospel speak to us of the shadow side of faith, the challenge that comes with the consolation.
But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Discipleship cannot come without some sacrifice, without placing behind us the various barriers that we erect in our lives to shield our vision from the suffering of our neighbors, even our brothers here.
But woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry. Jesus challenges us to embrace, even in our bodies, the gap that can be filled by God alone, the tug of celibacy, the real loss of promises and vows kept.
Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep. Jesus confronts us with the silliness of our lives, silliness lived in idle talk and superfluous language, in devotion to frivolities that can never satisfy.
Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way. Jesus teaches us not to be confounded by our own egos, but to be fearless in proclaiming the message of the Kingdom even when it costs us a great deal, even when it costs us everything.
The shadow side of faith is the challenge that comes with the comfort, a challenge that presents to us each day the growing edge of our discipleship. Brothers and sisters, we are never there. Rather we dedicate ourselves to the pursuit of the elusive God who stands right beside us. We live lives caught between beatitude and woe, lives of complete and utter sacrifice, and the shadow of self interest.
We live on the edge of glory and the subtle knife can cut either way. Blessings and woe. The cut is in the will.