From the Pastor's Desk
"Blessed are the poor!"?
Blessed are the hungry!"
I don’t know who writes the little intros in the Missalette, but they typically are both good theology and sound spirituality. Today’s is a case in point (page 70). I hope you have the habit of reading them each week.
Catholic biblical scholarship suggests that the Lucan version of the Beatitudes is probably closer to the actual words of Jesus than that of Matthew (“Blessed are the poor,” period, rather than, “Blessed are the poor in spirit”). Part of the reason they make this claim is that the version in Luke is closely reflected in the life and actions of Jesus. The word he preached was backed up by the witness of his life.
Luke’s version also includes the “woes.” In either case, the Beatitudes are very challenging! Jesus notices that some have more than enough while others suffer from hunger and want. Some turn a blind eye to the suffering of others (not something Jesus ever did). Jesus makes clear in Luke that people who ignore the needs of others will have difficult futures.
Today’s Gospel begins with the words “Jesus came down . . .” Jesus had just spent the whole night up on a mountain in prayer. When day came (symbolic of Jesus being filled with the light of the Holy Spirit), Jesus called his disciples and chose twelve that he named “apostles.” It is obvious, that Jesus meant for them to be the leaders of all the disciples. Then Jesus, with his apostles and disciples, preached to all the people. When Jesus spent the night in prayer, he was attuning his mind and consciousness with the mind an consciousness of God. He was preparing himself to act in the world according to the will of the Father, aware that he was sent by God. Jesus is more than a prophet, but he has the unyielding vision of a prophet, aware of the discrepancy between God’s vision for the world and the way people were actually living. It is Jesus’ vision of the Kingdom of God that motivates his “Blessed are” and “Woe to”.
Jesus turned the world on its head, more than we can readily imagine, especially preaching to a people who had heard their whole lives the prevalent theology, that if you were poor or suffering, you deserved to be; God was punishing your unfaithfulness. If you were rich and healthy, it was “proof” that you were good in God’s eyes and God was rewarding you. How shocking it must have been to hear “Blessed are the poor”!
In Jesus’ upside-down world, those enjoying riches, happiness, and/or fame will see their success crumble. Those suffering from hunger, poverty, derision and pain will be rewarded. Such is the paradox of the Kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed. Such is the paradox of the cross that led to the resurrection.
Jesus recognized that the world is out of sync with the Kingdom of God. That its judgments are fundamentally flawed and are not the way of eternal life. The way the world judges success or failure is transitory and does not coincide with the will of God. The way the world judges happiness is flawed. The way of Jesus leads to life.
Yesterday I began to transform a four-foot section of a pew from St. Stephen’s into a usable bench (I hope to offer it for sale or silent auction at the parish picnic.) and I found on the under- side of the seat three chunks of time-hardened gum. (I’m debating whether I should leave them there as part of their history.) Anyway, that reminded me of something I have been meaning to mention.
Chewing gum at mass is not the most appropriate thing (even if we are following the lead of our ancestors.). It is especially inappropriate when coming forward for Communion. I’m confident that no one means any disrespect. Yet it would be better to ditch the gum before entering for worship. This is just a challenge to awareness in this regard, conscious of the sacredness of what we do in the holy mass.
Peace, Fr. Bob