14 February 2010
Blessed are they who hope in the Lord
6th Sunday in Ordinary Time (C) – 14 February 2010
Readings: Jer 17:5-8; Ps 1:1-2, 3, 4 and 6; 1 Cor 15:12, 16-20; Lk 6:17, 20-26
The Gospel today contains Jesus’ “sermon on the plain”. This is Luke’s version of the “beatitudes” mentioned in Mt 5,1-12.
In Matthew, Jesus speaks on a mount imparting wisdom from on high. The people look up to him as students to their teacher. In Luke, He does his teaching on the plain, in the midst of the people, also imparting divine wisdom yet stressing more His being one with them, knowing their concerns and speaking about their condition. Luke doesn’t spiritualize much. In his version Jesus says: “Blessed are the poor”, compared to Matthew’s “Blessed are the poor in spirit”.
There are only four beatitudes in this Gospel passage, and four “woes”, four contrary propositions. Thus, the poor are called blessed and not the rich; the hungry are blessed, not the well-fed; the sorrowing, not the joyful; the unpopular, not the well-esteemed.
Now we ask: What is wrong with being rich, or well-fed, or happy or popular?
This teaching does need some explanation to avoid the misconception advanced by certain secular commentators, and erroneously held even by some people of faith, that Christianity/Catholicism or God wants the faithful to remain poor and dependent so as to keep the faith. This is simply not true. God certainly doesn’t want His people to wallow in poverty, hunger, sorrow or alienation.
A key to understanding this set of beatitudes and woes is a text written hundreds of years before the Gospel of Luke: the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah (the First Reading).
Jer 17,5: “Thus says the LORD: Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh, whose heart turns away from the LORD.”
Jer 17,7-8: “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose hope is the LORD. He is like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream: it fears not the heat when it comes, its leaves stay green; in the year of drought it shows no distress, but still bears fruit.”
The words of the prophet raise two basic issues: “Where do you put your trust?” and “What is most important to you?”
If you put your trust in riches, what if they were taken away from you? Would you lose hope and say everything is lost?
Blessed are you if you don’t root your entire life on material wealth.
If you put your trust in your capacity to provide for your family, what if you become incapacitated, dependent upon others for help? Would you lose the drive to live and be happy?
Blessed are you if you don’t ground your life in your own strength.
If you put your trust on things that bring you joy, what if you are asked to face something difficult that needs to be done? Would you rather shirk from the responsibility and stay in the safety of your comfort zone?
Blessed are you if you are not afraid to take the risk of getting hurt in order to live life to the full.
If you put your trust in your good name, what if you become unpopular or hated on account of your faith? Would you become bitter in your relationships?
Blessed are you if you don’t put your faith in the approval of others.
A short story for Valentine’s Day…
A young wife met an accident while driving their brand new car. While she was generally unhurt, the car sustained some damage. Wild thoughts were racing in her mind about the cost of the repairs, the extent of the insurance coverage, how her husband would react to the news, and a host of other worries. When she opened the envelop that contained the pertinent documents concerning the car, she found on top a handwritten note from her husband: “Honey, in case of accident, remember: It is you that I love and is most important to me… not the car.”
What are the things that are most important to you?
It pays to know what is most important to us so we know why we do the things we do. St. Ignatius of Loyola proposes precisely this when he introduces his way of prayer by a contemplation on what he calls “First Principle and Foundation”:
“Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul. This is his goal in life.
The other things on earth are created to help him in attaining this goal. Hence, man is to make use of them when they serve this purpose, and rid himself of them when they prove a hindrance to him.
Therefore, we must make ourselves indifferent to all created things, as far as we are allowed free choice and are not under any prohibition. We should not fix our desires on health or sickness, riches or poverty, honor or dishonor, a long life or a short life. The same holds for all other things.
Our one desire and choice should be what helps us more to attain our goal.”
Further, the saintly Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ, has this to say:
"There is nothing more practical than finding God, that is than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. what you are in love with, what seizes your imagination will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, what you know that breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything."
Ps 40,5 (the response to Psalm today) says: "Blessed are they who hope in the Lord". If we are serving the Lord, how can we go wrong? If God is with us, who can prevail over us?
Blessed are they who love God enough to put their entire trust in Him. They will receive blessings from Him since they are open to His grace. This is the sum of the beatitudes.
Are we ready to live by them or do they just remain words to live by?