September 7, 2011 - Wednesday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time

Today's Readings

“Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep.” Is Jesus telling us that there is something wrong with laughing? No! He just promised those who are now mourning “you will laugh.” Is he saying that laughing should be reserved for heaven, that laughing here on earth is what is wrong? No! He commanded those who are hated and excluded and insulted because of him to “Rejoice and leap for joy on that day!” Surely “that day” does not refer to heaven since there will be no hatred in heaven.

I believe that Jesus is using “now” with a particular sense: not now as opposed to later nor here on earth as opposed to later in heaven but as he uses the word “world” to mean both where we live and the evil nature of the present time, the word “now” can also serve this dual function. So the sentence might be expanded to say “Woe to you who laugh at sin and evil and all the things that amuse this evil age. Woe to you who laugh derisively at the holy things which seem useless now. Woe to you who laugh at people because, for now, they are weak or poor or disabled. Woe to you who laugh with the world as it now is and at those who are trying to be different. Woe to you who are relying on the here and now to make you happy because the here and now is passing away.”

The same could be said for “Woe to you who are filled now.” Jesus is not denying that we should eat well if we can. He once fed 5000 men with their families until they were full. He is speaking, it seems to me, about those who have satisfied their deep longing for God with all those evils that St. Paul wrote about today: immorality, impurity, anger, obscene language, etc.

The blessings and woes are a beautiful, poetic way of saying that if we are fitting in with this world the way it is, if we are succeeding according to the current rules, then we ought to watch out: the rules are changing, the world is changing. “Brothers and sisters: If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.” If we do that, then we can be as rich as St. Louis the King and laugh like St. Philip Neri. If we are strange now (in the right way), when Christ comes we will be normal. If we are normal now, when Christ comes we will not fit in.