The teaching of Jesus which we’ve just heard, was given to those men and women who were beginning to follow him. It was encouragement for them, and it didn’t make sense to most people on the fringe, either then, or now, some two thousand years later.
Most people believe that if you’re poor, hungry, sad and hated, then you should be pitied. Whereas if you’re wealthy, have plenty of everything and a good reputation, then you should be admired. You will be laughed at if it becomes known that you accept what Jesus taught here, and the general opinion will be that like most Christians you’ve taken leave of your senses when it comes to living in the normal world. Some people will even go so far as to call you mad or stupid.
Well then, why did Jesus teach this? What did he mean? Surely it isn’t good to be poor, hungry and sad. Of course not; but rich people often have no time for God, because they find it easy to rely on their own resources. Not so the poor. They really do have nowhere to turn; and Jesus was assuring the poor who followed him that their reliance on God would bring its own reward.
If you haven’t eaten for three days, then you’ll be hungry for food. Jesus said that our hunger for righteousness should be like that. If we hunger much, God will give us much. And it’s only when we’re sad for the bad things which we’ve done; when we mourn for the evil with which we’ve been involved, that we can be blessed with God’s forgiveness.
Jesus was teaching that wealth can make people think they need nothing. Being rich can be dangerous because it can tempt us to rely on riches rather than God.
In a few moments we shall say the Lord’s Prayer, the “Our Father”, and we shall pray that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. The life of heaven, where God is already King is to become the life of our world, transforming it into the place of beauty and goodness which God always intended.
If we want to be a part of that then we need to live in the present in a way which will make sense of the future. We need to empty ourselves of the things which the world sees as good, in order that God can fill us with the wealth and happiness which belong to His Kingdom.
Today we celebrate the Feast of All Saints, and this is the lesson which the saints learned. This is the teaching which they took to themselves, and which began to transform their earthly lives. This became their way of life; a way which united them to the life of Jesus whilst they were on earth, and which will keep them for ever in the presence of God. May it be our way, too.