Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Blessings and Woes

September 7, 2011

Wednesday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time

By Colleen O'Sullivan

Raising his eyes toward his disciples Jesus said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours. Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven. For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way. But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. But woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep. Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way.” (Luke 6:20-26)


Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,

Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

(St. Francis of Assisi)


A few years ago, through a friend, I became aware of the plight of a man from Guatemala. He and his wife came here to make a better life for themselves. Living in one room, they had a toddler and another little one on the way. They had no cell phone, no car, no legal documents. Every day this man gathered with others in similar situations waiting for someone to give them work for the day. If he was hired and if he got paid, he and his family could eat. Otherwise, they had to go to bed hungry.

I thought of him as I reflected on today’s Gospel. In the verses preceding today’s reading, Jesus had spent the night on a mountain praying. At daybreak, he gathered his disciples and from them selected his inner circle of twelve, the apostles. He then descended to the plain, where he was immediately surrounded by a crowd seeking healing. I can picture this Guatemalan man in the crowd - destitute, hungry, weeping inside for his lost dreams of a better life, overwhelmed with sadness at his inability to provide for his little family. I see him being jostled, along with others in the crowd. His hands, like the hands of many others’ that day, are outstretched toward Jesus, hoping against hope just to touch him, so great is the Lord’s healing power.

And, in the midst of this, Jesus begins to speak. Take heart. You are blessed. I have come to turn everything in this world upside down. You poor, the Kingdom of God is yours. You hungry will be filled. You who weep, I will wipe away your tears. You will laugh! You who are despised and rejected will be honored and blessed.

And then I begin to feel uneasy. I see Jesus turn and begin to speak to me and others like me. How is it that you can run into 7-Eleven in the morning and get a newspaper or a cup of coffee and never even notice the hopeful job-seekers gathered on the sidewalk in front? Are you blind? How is it that you can go on your way and never give their poverty, hunger or suffering a second thought the rest of the day or any other day for that matter? Woe to you who have everything you need and are so full of yourselves that you can’t think of anyone else. Enjoy your lives now, because all that will be reversed in God’s Kingdom. Those are frightening words.


The poor and suffering are all around us, even here in affluent Northern Virginia, yet often we look right through them as though they are invisible. Jesus calls us to open our eyes and our hearts, to share our abundance. Think back over your day or your week. Where have you seen the needy? What can you do to share Christ’s love – volunteer to help with an ESL class? Bring groceries for your parish food pantry? Donate school supplies for children who would otherwise go without? The possibilities are many; decide on one action for this week and then carry through on it.