|Pen and Ink Reflections||
Unlike the somewhat gentler version of the Beatitudes in Matthew’s account, Luke's account of Jesus’s core teaching leaves us in little doubt of his bias to the poor. He declares as blessed exactly those whom most of us would account as unfortunate, and pronounces woes on all those who like most of us, enjoy a comfortable life. It is small wonder then that the first followers of Jesus were mostly poor, slaves, disenfranchised and disabled. I wonder if we, comfortable western Christians, really believe him...
One of the joys of moving house as we have just done, is that all kinds of forgotten and unlikely treasures come to light. Indeed, among the many books that Jo and I shifted this week was a copy of the New Testament in French. My French is not wonderful, but good enough to follow familiar words. So I looked up today's Gospel reading and was struck by two words in that French translation in particular.
The first was 'heureux' or happy - the word we usually translate 'blessed'. Blessed has a much more 'religious' feel to it. Quite possibly it better translates the Greek μακάριος and the French might also use the word 'beni' for that. Yet the French word 'hereux' is much more straightforward. This is what it is to be happy. Now human beings are always seeking after happiness. Preferably a quick fix of happiness. Hence the popularity of self-help programs and even lotto. We live in a culture and era where it is often assumed that happiness is about wealth, success, strength and stability. In the face of such key indicators of happiness Jesus's suggested list of the happy presents a challenge. Jesus says that the happy include the poor, the sad, the downtrodden, and the persecuted. We might question who would choose to live in such a way, let alone count themselves blessed to do so...
Have you heard the tale of the barefoot man, the migrant woman and the taxi driver? It is a true story that Pope Francis recently told to more than 25 000 people gathered in St Peter’s Square…