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"Blessed are the poor"

“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.” (Luke 6:20-21)
Now, if Jesus were here in our town at this moment when we are preparing for Christmas, would he preach with those words to us?
Or “Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry.” (Luke 6:24-25)
On this earth, millions of people are ravaged by poverty. Some are due to the failure of the agriculture plan by their governments. Some of them are because of natural disasters such as drought or flood. However as you know, the world-wide environmental destruction causes various calamities on this earth, and produces the poor. The modern scientific civilization has brought convenience and comfort, and it cut down diseases, but on the other hand, it hurt nature and the environment.
So, we are required to have a more keen sense of Christianity to examine our prosperous lives. Is our comfortable life the result of simply our diligence, or the sacrifices of the poor in the third world? In this society of materialism what is our mission as Christians?
As Christ’s witnesses, we are called to participate in his prophetic role in our time. We know some famous prophets in the Old Testament. What do we learn from them?
The prophets were persons who simply talked about the mind of God to their fellow countrymen. The prophets knew the reality of the human condition, because they themselves were so weak and powerless that they committed many human mistakes and faults before God. That’s why although they strongly accused the people of sinning, they powerfully pleaded with God for his mercy upon the wicked.
Almost all of the prophets were not welcomed in their societies. Jesus himself talked about that (Mark 6:4). To live as a prophet was to choose an unpleasant position among the people. In the same way, in our time to live as a Christian means to be even the sign of opposition as Jesus said, “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.” (Luke 6:22)
Many religious leaders and the wealthy must have objected to Jesus when he preached, “Blessed are you who are poor. Blessed are you who are hungry now.” For they had thought that wealth was a gift of God to those who were loved by him, and the poor were abandoned by God. But Jesus’ statement challenges us too. Most of us think that we are neither greedy nor rich. We are in the midst of the historical economic crisis. Yet, in the eyes of Jesus we still might be belonging to the category of the rich and greedy.
Jesus did not give a blanket support to poverty and hunger. Jesus did not unconditionally praise the poor. He knew the human weakness hidden even in the hearts of poor people, such as attachment for money or relying on earthly power. Even so, Jesus did not hesitate to say that the poor are blessed. Why? Jesus’ conviction that the poor are blessed by God the Father was from his vivid experience when he lived in poverty and especially as a friend of the poor who only relied on God’s mercy.
Surely Jesus never separated the rich from his salvation work, but warned of a tenacity to wealth. The rich are demanded to share their possessions with the people in need so that the needy praise God along with their benefactors. Indeed, when Jesus said that the poor were blessed, he reminded the people that his Father had a great compassion upon the needy. They are already in God’s loving hands.
If it is so, we have to learn about the true Christian happiness from the poor. In this holy season the helping hand to the disadvantaged is a kind of sign of our solidarity with Christ who is with them. Almsgiving is a gratitude to the poor, who teach us and guide us to join the Kingdom of God where Jesus Christ is with them.

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