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September 22nd, 2008 at 7:32 pm

First Homily: Blessed Are You Poor

We were reminded last week that when Jesus spoke to the synagogue in Nazareth he quoted from a very important passage in Isaiah. Jesus said: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

A little later we found Jesus coming down from a mountain with his apostles. On the way down he met up with a larger number of disciples and a whole multitude of people from every corner of Israel. They had come to hear him and to be healed by him. Jesus healed many, and then he paused to talk to all of his disciples, and to talk to the whole crowd gathered around listening.

Jesus in healing the people and in teaching them was doing just what Isaiah said that the coming one would do – He was preaching the good news to the poor, proclaiming liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind. This, now, today, on the hillside – this was the year of the Lord’s favor.

The people on the hillside were not the affluent of Israel. These were people who were suffering, suffering from poverty, suffering from sickness and disease, suffering the loss of loved ones, suffering perhaps under the tyranny of some rich landowner. These were needy people. They lacked. They cried out. They came to Jesus.

And Jesus pronounces them blessed or fortunate. How could this be? How could a sick or poor or suffering person be blessed? Well Jesus goes on to say, “Blessed are you poor for yours is the kingdom of God.”  Yes, it is the year of the Lord’s favor. The Lord has come to His people in the person of Jesus. To come to Jesus is to enter the kingdom.

Notice that Jesus did not say, “Blessed are the poor” but “Blessed are you poor.” There is no virtue in poverty itself. But poor people are needy people. And if, in their need, they reach out to Jesus as the Lord and Savior, then they will receive the kingdom. Thus they are blessed.

We all know that in Matthew’s gospel it says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” and here it says “blessed are you poor.” The particular poor to which Jesus speaks in Luke are in fact poor in spirit; they are at the end of their rope; they have either messed up their own lives or have had the life crushed out of them by pain, or sorrow, or the cruelty of others, and they have come to Jesus.

The Apostle Paul reminded us in his letter to the church in Corinth that Christians aren’t the well heeled, they aren’t the wise of the world, and they aren’t the best and the brightest. God sets his saving love so often on the most needy to confound the wisdom of the wise, and turn the assumptions of the world upside down.

If you suffer, if you’re sad, if you feel crushed by the sadness or difficulty of your life, if you are brokenhearted, you already know that you aren’t going to find ultimate happiness and meaning in this life. Jesus is calling for you. He wants to touch you and bless you. He wants to give you the kingdom.

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