I can still see my Dad’s face and hear his voice when he hugged me and said “Congratulations.” It was the Easter Vigil in 2013 and I had just been Baptized, Confirmed and received First Eucharist. I was draped in my Baptismal gown and one by one my family and friends “congratulated” me. It was not because I had done something “better” than they had done in their lives, but because I had received something different.
In this week’s Gospel from Luke, we are presented with Four Beatitudes and Four Woes. Luke’s shorter version of the Beatitudes has always intrigued me because it makes them more approachable. Jesus is saying that the conditions of this life will be overturned in the next where the blessed can expect future peace and those that smothered their love for God can expect curses. I have always liked the translation of “Beatitude” as blessed or a state of bliss. But, Beatitude can also mean “congratulations.” If a person adheres to the Beatitudes the person is “fortunate” and in position for a coming action of God. To me, that is beautiful knowing that by living as Christ taught us, we are in a position for a great “congratulations.”
What makes the Beatitudes such a challenge is that when you read them they appear to setup a contrast. It’s better to be poor or hungry? But, that’s the difference. That’s the part that makes following Jesus different. He challenges us to pick up our cross and await the full Kingdom of God. When Jesus called the first apostles and asked them to “follow” it was not an ordinary request from a rabbi. It was the calling from God. It was different!
So, how can we live the Beatitudes and be different? How do we receive that big congratulations? We follow Jesus. Not just his teachings, but everything about him. We follow him, carrying our own cross and exemplifying what it means to be a joyful missionary disciple. It’s not always easy to follow Jesus, but that’s what makes each one of us different.