From the Desk of Sr. Gabriela; Weekly Reflections

February 17, 2019

“FIRST IMPRESSIONS”

6th SUNDAY -C-

Jeremiah 17: 5-8; Psalm 1; I Cor. 15: 12, 16-20; Luke 6: 17, 20-26

by Jude Siciliano, OP

There are Beatitudes for us today in the Jeremiah, Psalm and Luke readings. They declare blessed those whose lives are focused on God and who live dependent and trusting in God. Jeremiah puts it succinctly: if we rely solely on our human strengths and self-sufficiency, we will only have misery. We will be, the prophet warns, like plants in the desert struggling to survive. These plants live, but what’s the value of their lives? He advises that there is an immense gap between us mortals, “flesh,” and the Lord. Our Psalm today echoes the blessing Jeremiah proclaims: “Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.” .

In contrast to the withered plant in the desert, those who acknowledge their limitations and turn in trust to God, will flourish. They will be like, “a tree planted near running water.” It is said that Psalm 1 is an introduction and overview to the Book of Psalms; it sums up all of the Psalms. Throughout the Psalms there will be contrasts between those who are righteous and choose God and those who go their own way and perish: “For the Lord watches over the way of the just, but the way of the wicked vanishes.”

There is a choice offered us by the prophet Jeremiah and the Psalm response: will we choose drought, or abundant waters – trust in ourselves, or in God?

Today’s and next week’s gospels are from the “Sermon on the Plain,” – a parallel to Matthew’s “Sermon on the Mount.” While similar, both evangelists are writing for different audiences and tailor their material accordingly. Isn’t that what good preachers are supposed to do? In Luke’s version there is a large multitude of Jesus’ disciples with him and also “a large number of the people.” Jesus speaks to his disciples, those who are already following him. How many of the crowd who heard him were attracted to the good news he was sharing? Did they become his disciples too? Did what he said affect their lives; change their notion of God? Has the Sermon had similar affects on us?

After listing the four situations in life that make people blessed, Luke then lists their opposites, declaring the “woes.” The word for “blessed” is not a description of happiness as we know it; but is a gift bestowed by God. You don’t earn the blessings; you just need them and God notices. Those who have nothing – no material wealth, or food, who are weeping and hated, because of Jesus, will receive God’s favor.

Luke’s church was experiencing deprivation and suffering because they were followers of Christ. They certainly would not have felt “blessed;” nor would others who looked on their miserable condition, consider them “blessed.” Was Luke being “real” in his enumeration of those who are blessed by God? The evidence didn’t seem to show any sign of God’s favor. When we struggle through hard times it doesn’t feel like God is on our side; it may even feel God has turned against us. Can we trust the truth of these Beatitudes; that with God, things are not as they seem? Those the world disfavors and considers no-accounts, are accepted and blessed by God. While those who count themselves fortunate, may not be. Things just aren’t what they seem to our eyes!

“Blessed are you who are poor for the kingdom of God is yours.” How can this not be “pie-in-the-sky?” – Was Marx right when said that religion is the opiate of the people? Many people suffer economic setbacks. This was especially true after the recent 35-day government shutdown. Thousands of lower-rank government employees were put in severe financial stress because their families live from paycheck to paycheck. When the paychecks stopped, many were forced to borrow, choose between paying rent or medicines, missed mortgage payments, etc. When Jesus blessed the poor he had people like these in mind – those impoverished and marginalized, who belong to a permanent underclass, unfairly deprived of essentials because of discrimination, poor education, lack of medical essentials, government disarray etc.

Whose side is God on in situations when the rich get their wealth off the backs of the poor? The Beatitudes make it quite clear: God stands with the poor, hungry, weeping and persecuted. Jesus declares blest those who seem out of favor with God. What a reversal of our usual world view. By themselves, there is nothing virtuous about being poor, hungry, weeping and persecuted. Those disciples who heard Jesus announce the Beatitudes on the plain, amid the crowd of people, were being given a vision and a reminder, already articulated by the Hebrew prophets, of God’s love and concern for society’s least. In Jesus, God was fulfilling the promise of those prophets. God came to live among the poor and announce glad tidings to them. Woe to those who oppose God’s rule and Jesus’ message.

Jesus warned the comfortable and content that they ignored the needs of others at their own risk; for when God comes to pass judgment, those with much now will find themselves with nothing. “Woe to you who are filled now….” Even in his “woes” Jesus was implying good news to the comfortable and satisfied. He was calling them to open their eyes and their ears to the world around them and warning them that they didn’t have to undergo severe judgment. There was time to change.

Is it possible that Jesus’ indictment of those who are now rich, filled, laughing and esteemed is also an offer of grace? They are not stuck, there is still time to wake up and accept God’s mercy, turn their lives around and do the good things Jesus taught his disciples gathered around him that day on the plain.

Jesus’ words today may have made us aware of changes we need to make in our lives. We do not have to do that on our own because we gather together in worship strengthened by the word we have heard Jesus address to us his disciples. Soon we will stand with one another at the altar. We, who hear the Beatitudes today and receive the meal God has prepared for us, are given the grace to become Beatitude people, easily recognized by the world as disciples of Jesus.

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17 de febrero, 2019

Palabras para el VI Domingo de tiempo ordinario

 Jeremias 17: 5-8; 1 Corintios 15: 12, 16-20; Lucas 6: 17, 20-26

Si alguien nos pregunta qué cosa nos hace dichosos, mayormente respondemos que es un ser querido, una relación con un esposo, un hijo y un amigo que da sentido a la vida. Por eso nos alegramos tanto en una boda, o con el nacimiento de un niño o de una celebración entre familiares y amigos. También, estamos acostumbrados a decir que la salud, un buen trabajo y la seguridad de una casa son bendiciones y por ellos agradecemos a Dios. Y es la razón por la celebración esta semana, el día de los enamorados, cuando festejamos a todos los que tienen relaciones de amor en su vida.

Sabemos bien lo que es una bendición y creemos que Dios es un Dios de bondad que quiere llenarnos con bendiciones. Por esta razón, nos suenan raras las palabras de Jesús en el Evangelio: dichosos son ustedes los pobres, los hambrientos, los que lloran y los que sufren. Y nos asustan aún más cuando pensamos en los pobres que pasan hambre, que pierdan a sus familiares en desastres naturales y que sufren toda clase de enfermedad. Nuestro corazón nos dice que Jesús no quiere que cualquier individuo sufra así. ¿Entonces, como podemos entender las palabras que escuchamos hoy?

Es bueno enfocarnos en la primera bienaventuranza: “Dichosos ustedes los pobres, porque de ustedes es el Reino de Dios”. En el tiempo de Jesús, la riqueza se entendía como signo de la bendición de Dios. Y es seguro que la mayoría de los que se sentaron en el llanto cuando Jesús descendió del monte no eran ricos. Era gente sencilla y pobre, que le siguió a Jesús porque Él les daba importancia. Estaban despreciados por los sacerdotes, los fariseos y los escribas. Se entendía que ellos no se incluyeron entre los bendecidos por Dios, porque su pobreza era signo de su pecado. Entonces, las palabras de Jesús eran revolucionarias. Todo el esquema de predilección de Dios estaba puesto al revés. Jesús estaba declarando que Dios les tenía amor y les había bendecido.

¿Y porque eran dichosos? No era por su pobreza, sino por la sencillez de su corazón. Jesús no les estaba predicando una resignación pconsu pobreza, sino una declaración de la importancia de los pobres en los ojos de Dios. Ellos no debían resignarse a su estado de miseria, sino que seguir adelante con una visión de las posibilidades que tenían, como bien-amados de Dios. Era un mensaje de aliento, de esperanza y de alegría. Era un mensaje que solo ellos, los pobres, pudieron captar. Los ricos se veían justificados. Creían que su riqueza era señal de su favor con Dios. Pero Jesús estaba extendiendo a los pobres una visión inversa del Reino. En el Reino de Jesús, los que buscaban la verdad, la justicia y la compasión eran los dichosos.

Esta lectura nos viene en buen momento. Vivimos en un mundo que mide el éxito por la riqueza que uno tiene. El Evangelio nos da una oportunidad para escuchar las palabras de Jesús como si fuera por primera vez. Debemos considerar nuestro corazón. ¿Somos complacidos? ¿Estamos satisfechos con los bienes del mundo? ¿O podemos ver el vacío en nuestro corazón y reconocer que necesitamos algo más?

¿Donde estamos? Si podemos reconocer nuestra falta de compasión, de perdón y de generosidad, somos entre los pobres de la tierra. Si podemos ver nuestra necesidad de paciencia, de auto-sacrificio, de cambio de estilo de vida, somos entre los pobres de la tierra. Si podemos entender que hoy podemos empezar de nuevo, que podemos entrar en un camino de compasión, somos entre los pobres de la tierra. Y si podemos presentarnos antes Dios humildes y no llenos de si mismo, somos en buena condición de comenzar der nuevo. Con esta sabiduría podemos seguir adelante, sabiendo que nos encontraremos entre los dichosos del Reino.

SG Reflection: From First Impression

 

 

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