This was a proclamation of a new order (what Jesus called "the Kingdom of God") directed towards improving the lot of the poor, the imprisoned, the ill and oppressed. It was the proclamation of the Jewish "Jubilee Year," where debts would be forgiven, slaves freed, and wealth redistributed.
Now in today's Gospel reading, the Master expresses the same sentiment, only this time in even a more in-your-face manner. Here, it's worth quoting the words Luke attributes to Jesus.
"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.
Blessed are you who are now weeping,
for you will laugh.
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 . . .
But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
Woe to you who are filled now,
for you will be hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will grieve and weep.
Woe to you when all speak well of you,
for their ancestors treated the false
prophets in this way."
Shocking words - all of them, don't you agree? They are part of the great reversal in the new order proclaimed by Jesus. There, the values of the world will be turned on their heads. The poor will be in charge. They will have food to eat. Laughter will replace their tears.
But the rich will experience great misery (woe). That's because they have been led astray by false prophets like those cardinals participating in the billionaire hostile takeover of the Catholic Church. Those fake prophets console the super-rich with honeyed words about their specialness
But according to Luke's Jesus, the rich may be enjoying those multi-course meals, private cocktail parties, cigar receptions and rounds of golf now. But when the Kingdom's new order comes, they will find themselves hungry. They may be laughing now, but then they will weep and cry. Their false prophets may praise them now but come the new order, the wealthy will be cursed as the most wretched of men.
Obviously, Jesus' teaching contradicts our culture's worship of the rich. We think of the rich as heroic entrepreneurs. Jesus sees them as worthless wretches. We see the poor as losers. Jesus sees them as objects of God's special favor.
In other words, Jesus turns our thinking upside down. As Marianne Williamson puts it: Jesus' truth (God's truth) is 180 degrees opposed to what our culture values and teaches.
That realization should be Christians' fundamental guide in reading the news and thinking about world events. It should be the confident guide of our activist efforts.
Most everything is the opposite of what our culture claims!