BLESSED ARE YOU POOR…
The focus in the gospel reading from Luke is on the poor, the hungry and the sad. He declares them blessed, then promises the Kingdom of God to the poor, and to the others relief.
Blessed are you poor: In the ancient Greek vocabulary there are several words that can be used to describe poverty. Jesus used the word that indicates a severe poverty; the idea is someone who must beg for whatever they have or will get.
As I look at a photograph on my desk taken some thirty years ago of a severely poor family who live in Moreno, Argentina, the text of Luke about the first beatitude echoes in my heart. There is Mary, the mother standing in her miserable shack in front of a picture of the Sacred Heart, her two daughters close to her- Veronica (standing) and Adriana (sitting). Veronica should have been born on 25th May, a national holiday, but the nurses insisted that Mary delay the birth till the 26th with sedatives so Veronica was born with a mental handicap. A few years later, Adriana arrived, a seven- month baby, was put in an incubator, her eyes exposed to strong light, and as a result, was left totally blind. Of course as Mary was poor she could claim no recompense for the damage done. In fact she was threatened with death if she made a complaint.
They looked to others for support. They could not have made it otherwise.
And it was that awareness that they could not make it alone that had Mary turning to prayer and her faith in Our Lady to get through a life not only lacking basic things like housing, food and clothing, but the joy and trust in God’s Providence. So she began to go once a month to Lujan, the national shrine of Our Lady and told me how she grew in her trust, joy and peace of mind. Jeremiah in the first reading for this Sunday, assures us that there is a blessing on the one who puts her/his trust in the Lord, with the Lord for his/her hope. She is enjoying the fruits of the kingdom now.
I recognize elements of co-counselling methodology in the way Jesus provides a contrast to the dire situation of the group of people he refers to. A “contradiction to the distress” is the term we use. The weepers will have joy, will laugh. The hungry will be satisfied. Focussing on the possibility of change, of things getting better gives relief, energy, hope. And often healing of old wounds.
This same word for blessed – which in some sense means “happy” is applied to God in
1 Timothy 1:11: according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God.
“Makarios then describes that joy which has its secret within itself, that joy which is serene and untouchable, and self-contained, that joy which is completely independent of all the chances and changes of life.” (Barclay)
Let us pray this Sunday 6th in ordinary time for this deep untouchable joy.
Sr. Ronnie Rafferty