My nephew was about to “graduate” from kindergarten. He put on his paper mortarboard and marched with his class to the stage. As he received his “diploma”, Jason shook hands with his teacher. After the ceremony, we each said “Congratulations.” Jason looked at us and asked, “What does that mean?” His mom and dad answered, “Good job!”
That answer worked for a five year old!
While this may be sufficient for a five year old, sometimes something deeper is intended. If we look at the Latin – “congratulations” means “to be pleased with” or “graced with.” When we offer our congratulations, we are saying we rejoice with the other and it expresses a relationship.
The Beatitudes in our Gospel today announce God’s pleasure in and relationship to the poor, to those who are excluded and hated. With the Beatitudes, Luke highlights God’s generosity.
Luke seems to be exalting the downtrodden simply because they are downtrodden, and “cursing” the comfortable simply because they are comfortable. What really is at the heart of this Gospel is the manner of life that makes present God’s reign of love. Jesus asks of us today to become people willing to feel our needs and to depend on God. Then we will also be open to our neighbor, to receive and to give. It is our relationship with God that motivates us to live the blessings that are given to us. And it is our relationship with God that motivates us to reach out to others. The model for this type of relationship is Jesus himself.