Wednesday of the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time
“Raising his eyes toward his disciples…”
While this is the opening line of today’s Gospel reading it is one that may be often overlooked but it sets an important tone: Jesus, delivering here Luke’s version of the Beatitudes, is about to have a serious heart-to-heart with His friends. Matthew puts the same sermon in an even more intimate context, saying that they went up to a mountaintop, away from the crowds on the plain to whom He’d just ministered. He had just shown them the work they would be doing to build up the Kingdom of God, but there is more to it; a lot more. If He had told Peter everything on that day when the fisherman was convinced to drop his nets, would Peter still have followed Jesus? For he could not have known that he would be poor, hungry, sorrowful, hated, excluded, insulted and treated the same as the prophets of old; hardly the kind of recruitment speech that would inspire a young man to sign up.
Those of us who are married, or at least have attended a wedding Mass, are familiar with the vows, “I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.” One way to understand Jesus’ message to His apostles is to see that, having been specially chosen to be in a particularly close relationship with Him, they must be entirely committed, “in good times and in bad.” He likewise promises that for everything they suffer, He will satisfy them when the work of building the Kingdom is complete and they may rest from their labor. “Blessed are you,” Jesus says of the suffering, for as He says in the Spiritual Exercises, “whoever would like to come with me is to labor with me, that following me in the pain, he may also follow me in the glory.” Rejoice and leap for joy on that day!
We can easily imagine Him looking particularly deep into the eyes of Judas when He says, “But woe to you who are rich…” For Jesus desires a total commitment; those whose hearts are already filled by something else, who seek their fulfillment in this world, will have no room for the reward that is to come in the next. For to be an apostle, to labor with Jesus in building the Kingdom, is to be subject to the same adversity as He. Those who do not suffer did not labor and those who do not work, as St. Paul famously says, shall not eat (2 Thess. 3:10) and thus, in the Day to come, will find themselves hungry. Do not be discouraged, brothers and sisters, if you suffer in even the least way because of your faith; you suffer in the very best of company.