The scripture readings used this week speak of contrasts in terms of our relationship with God. Jeremiah firstly looks at the man who trusts in earthly things and his description is of a man living in a desert; unable to see good in things distanced from the Lord. The contrast here is with a man who has put his trust in the Lord; who finds that he is blessed; never fearing for his needs and lives a fruitful life.
The psalm emphasises this trust, as it announces how happy are those who put their trust in the Lord.
St Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians also has contrast; although it may be harder to notice. St Paul is rebuking a claim that there is no resurrection; arguing that Christ the resurrected Messiah has opened the gates of heaven for all who believe and saying that if this was not true then we, as believers, have become the most unfortunate people.
The words of Jesus in St Luke’s Gospel assure us that we are not unfortunate; we are blessed. The message Jesus preaches is counter cultural; he lists the types of people that society would say, even today, are the most unfortunate of people – the poor, the hungry, those who grieve, those who are persecuted because of their belief in Jesus. Jesus turns this around; he tells everyone that these people are blessed.
So, why are they blessed? Being poor, being hungry and I am sure being persecuted would not feel like a blessing. The answer is quite simple; these are the people who will more readily put their trust in God. They cannot rely on themselves to provide; they need to rely on God and Jesus is telling us that when we trust fully in His Father then He will provide. He tells the poor that theirs is the kingdom of heaven. He tells the hungry they will be satisfied and those who are persecuted for their belief in Jesus will have great reward in heaven.
Poor is not just about financial matters. We have seen many examples of the poor in recent months those who had to die alone because of Covid restrictions, their families who could not comfort them, the doctors, nurses, health and social care staff who tried to help them; think of the things these people have had to endure and the memories they have been left with. All of these people put into context a contemporary view of ‘the poor’.
Hunger is not just about a lack of food either, those with a desire to learn, those with a desire to progress in their career, those with a desire to have decent accommodation for their family or find a country of safety to live also hunger for their needs or desires.
In Luke’s Gospel there is also a message for those who have it good in this life; the rich, those who eat well and those who laugh now. He uses the word ‘alas’, these people are the same as those in Jeremiah’s reading who rely on things of the flesh; they are like the dry scrub; blinded to what is important. Their priorities are themselves to the exclusion of those in need.
Jesus is not saying it is wrong to be wealthy, what He is saying is that it is wrong to be wealthy and not look out for those in need. True wealth is not found in earthly riches, true wealth is found when we live a life of trust in God. Loving God and loving our neighbour.
In my faith journey I have been very blessed to have been accompanied by several gifted people who have shown love to me and my family in many ways. The times when I have been poor because of my distance from God; those who have accompanied me helped bring me back into the fold. The times when I have been hungry to learn more; they suggested reading material or gave me their time, listening to me or suggesting talks to attend, guiding me and loving me as Jesus does.
I have had a very blessed life. I have a wonderful wife and a loving family. I have been fortunate always to have had a job and have been supported by my employer with education and been reasonably successful in developing my career. I can count many successes in the workplace. But I actually get more of a buzz when I see people I have supervised or managed do well, than I have ever had for any of my own promotions. I have learned from others who invested their time in helping me to develop and I now try to do the same with those who are at the earlier stage of their careers.
Life is not about getting ‘to the top’ at everyone else’s expense. Life is about supporting those around you to reach their full potential. Life is about supporting people in need so that when we see or hear about people who are hungry; they will be blessed because we care enough to do something about feeding them. When we see or hear about people who are poor; they will be blessed because we care enough to do something to help them. When people mourn; they will be blessed because we care enough to do something to comfort them and when we see people being persecuted for any reason, but especially for standing up for their faith; they will be blessed because we do not let them stand alone.
Our alas, is when we decide to do nothing. Alas for us then, because we will be treated the same as the false prophets Jesus mentioned in the Gospel.
Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)1
CCC 1820: Christian hope begins in the giving of the Beatitudes
CCC 2544-2547: poverty of heart; the Lord grieves over the rich
CCC 655, 989-991, 1002-1003: hope in the Resurrection
Please keep in your prayers
- The poor, the hungry and those who are persecuted for loving Jesus.
- The rich, those who have had their fill and those who mock others, that they will have a change of heart.
- Those who are sick, those recovering from surgery, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
- The Year of the Eucharist, that this will lead to a fresh outpouring of love by the people of God for the Body and Blood of Christ.
- The listening stage of the 16th Synod of Bishops which is entitled “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission” that all Catholics will take part.
- The families due to start the Baptism Preparation Course this weekend in St Bede’s.
- Those preparing for and attending the Big Picture sessions on Mondays.
- Those attending the RCIA course at St Bede’s on Wednesdays.
- Those fighting racial injustice in our society.