Opening the Word: Blessings and woes

By: 

In this column, I often have cautioned against our mishearing of familiar scriptural passages. When we hear the parable of the prodigal son or the good Samaritan, we cease listening because we’re so used to these stories.

Luke’s blessings and woes (the Beatitudes in the Gospel of Matthew) are one of those scriptural passages that, perhaps, have grown stale for us. We know that the poor are blessed. We know that the hungry will have food taken away.

Yet, the gift of the Scriptures is that we never can fully grasp the heights and depths of God’s self-giving love. There is an infinite meaning to be discovered, even in the smallest phrase in the Bible.

This is what we hear in the psalms on the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time. The translation of Psalm 1 in the Lectionary is overly abstract, referring to one who hopes and follows God.

But the psalm in Hebrew, Greek and Latin uses more literal language. The one who is truly blessed, who flourishes, is the one who walks not according to the wisdom of the wicked, but who delights in the law of the Lord. The one faithful to God’s commandments, who meditates on the words of the Scriptures, flourishes like a tree planted alongside running waters. Blessed is this man or woman.

In the blessings and woes in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus takes up this image of flourishing from the psalms. Jesus’ proclamation of the blessed state of the poor, hungry, weeping and the hated is linked to Scripture.

The poor, hungry, weeping and hated are obedient to the law of the Lord. They have lived as those who have relied entirely on God rather than depending on their own ingenuity.

It is the rich, those whose bellies are full, who laugh at the suffering of the poor and who are important figures in society who should be concerned. For, as the psalms make clear, if one really is following the law of love unto the end, of divine graciousness, rejection tends to come along.

The blessings and woes as found in the Gospel of Luke offer to the Christian an infinite challenge. God has not chosen those obsessed with power and prestige to inherit the kingdom of heaven. God has chosen the least of these.

But, it is the least of these who order their lives according to the Scriptures. They know that the truly blessed person is the one who takes up their cross. They know that perfect power is revealed in weakness. They know that God is love, and they have ordered their lives according to this central truth.

When we listen to our Lord’s blessings and woes, it is not enough to abstractly assess the truth of what is proclaimed. Jesus is not a politician, making a speech meant to move our affections.

Instead, we are to ask ourselves:

Have I allowed myself to be planted beside these fruitful waters? Do I live as someone who is poor, who hungers for God alone, who weeps with those who sorrow, and who is among the despised of the world? Do I live according to the law of the Lord, obedient to love unto end?

Or am I one of those who are condemned? Do I live as one who is full of power and prestige, fame and fortune? Do I care most about myself? Am I in it to win it?
If we are woeful, the good news is that there is still time.

There’s time to be blessed. We just have to plant ourselves along the proper waters.

 

 

Catholic News & Perspective

Provides information on the Church, the nation and the world from OSV, America's most popular and trusted national Catholic news source


Recent

Send in the crowds

Monday, March 18, 2019
By: Teresa Tomeo If I had a penny for every time my spiritual director over the years has told me “all things Christ,” I would be a... Read More

Opening the Word: Luminosity of love

Friday, March 15, 2019
By: Timothy P. O'Malley Spiritual theologians often have cautioned Christians about relying on visions. St. John of the Cross warned his readers... Read More

As U.S. dioceses release lists of credibly accused, the question remains: Is it enough?

Wednesday, March 13, 2019
By: Brian Fraga At least 111 Catholic dioceses and 11 religious institutes in the United States have released lists of clergy, religious and lay... Read More

Why I'm staying

Monday, March 11, 2019
By: Russell Shaw This column is being written on the eve of a much-publicized summit meeting of bishops from around the world whom Pope Francis has... Read More

Opening the Word: Ethics of adoration

Friday, March 8, 2019
By: Timothy P. O'Malley In the public sphere, there is often a separation between the act of worship and public life. We are told religion,... Read More

Why is Cardinal Newman still relevant today?

Wednesday, March 6, 2019
By: Michelle Martin Ryan Marr and his colleagues were thrilled to hear that a second miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Cardinal... Read More

Mark of true beauty

Monday, March 4, 2019
By: Teresa Tomeo Several years ago, when addressing the topic of culture and media influence on people of faith, Pope Benedict XVI gave us a great... Read More

Opening the Word: Horizon of discipleship

Friday, March 1, 2019
By: Timothy P. O'Malley Christians are at risk of falling into a severe trap. Namely, we believe that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is really a matter... Read More

Lenten program to help PA dioceses address abuse crisis

Wednesday, February 27, 2019
By: Brian Fraga This Lent, the faithful in the Diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania, will read and reflect upon stories such as that of a 10-year-old... Read More

Hospital reflections

Monday, February 25, 2019
By: Robert P. Lockwood In the hospital. That’s where I spent the greater part of a week approaching Lent 2019. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.... Read More

Online Giving

Online Giving

Secure and Convenient Donate now!