24 ‘But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
25 ‘Woe to you who are full now,
for you will be hungry.
‘Woe to you who are laughing now,
for you will mourn and weep.
26 ‘Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.
Sometimes it seems that, whichever end of the stick I seize in Jesus’ teaching, the pointy end still pokes me in the side.
I acknowledge that I am “poor”, “hungry” and “weeping.” But now suddenly he turns the whole thing around and I have to acknowledge that, at the same time, I am “rich”, full” and “laughing.” And this is a problem.
By any material standard measured against most of the world, I am rich beyond imagining. I have received more than my fair share of the world’s goods. I have consumed vastly more of the world’s resources than are rightfully mine. In the midst of this sumptuous feast that is my life and, in the face of the terrible suffering all around me, I “laugh.”
And so, I have received my “consolation”; I “will be hungry”; and I “will mourn and weep”.
But is it true? Am I actually “rich”? Am I “full”? Is my “laughing” genuine? Or do I possess merely the patina of richness, the fleeting feeling of fullness, and the artifice of laughter?
At a deeper level, I know that Jesus was really talking about me when he spoke of those who are “poor”, “hungry,” and “weeping.” No amount of material accumulation ever made anyone “rich”. There is no food on earth that can create genuine lasting fullness in the deepest recesses of the human heart. There is no laughter that, in the race of the desperation of so much of humanity, does not turn quickly to weeping. Certainly there are no accolades that have the slightest sustaining power.
If I am truly to experience that I am rich, full, and consoled, it will only be as I see the ultimate failure of all things on the material, emotional, sensory plane to satisfy the deepest longings of my being. Then in the hidden recesses of my spirit, I will discover the divine presence which is the only source of lasting consolation in the midst of the fleeting chimera of this material realm.