“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and God of all encouragement” 2 Corinthians 1:1
The readings for today’s Mass are powerful, inspiring, uplifting and revolutionary. And yes, they are also very challenging.
In the first reading, Paul blesses God. In the Gospel reading, Jesus blesses people. Both Paul and Jesus recognize that the circumstances of life of the people they address in these readings are difficult, and even tragic. They are a people whose decision to follow Jesus has been met with pain and suffering. In Paul’s case, some could be facing persecution and death. Jesus makes a reference to persecution and suffering in this Sermon of the Beatitudes.
These readings may lead us to ask, who do we turn to when we are suffering, when we are afflicted, when we are devastated? Do we bless or do we curse?
Over the last few weeks, we have been seeing families being devastated by violence, injustice, storms and wars. We cannot turn on our TVs without seeing an interview of those who have suffered death and destruction because of flood, riots in the streets, gang violence or the devastation that is caused by war.
Some of those interviewed curse. They curse the darkness. They curse their enemies. They curse their persecutors. We can see their obvious pain. We can hear how they search for meaning as they scream: Why! Why me? Why us? How can God do this to us?
Others interviewed bless. They bless God. They bless the people who come to help. They bless their missing family members or those who have died because of the storms, because of the violence, because of injustice.
Each day that we get up, we can bless God and bless the people who surround us. We can bless our family and friends. We can bless our co-workers and our neighbors. We can bless the homeless person and the shyster who is trying to steal our belongings.
Or we can curse. We can curse the crooks. We can curse the evil-doers, we can curse who have wronged us.
St. Paul and Jesus were well aware of the sufferings and sorrows of the people who came to them for consolation and comfort. Their daily lives were not easy. Yet, Paul and Jesus chose to bless and not to curse. Paul blesses God and asks that we be consoled by God. Jesus blesses the poor, the peacemaker, the sorrowing, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for justice, those who suffer persecution.
They are letting us know that if we turn to God and if we decide to follow Jesus, the strength, the grace, the courage to bless and not to curse is there for the asking.
Let us bless God. Let us bless the people we love and the people who hate us, the good and the bad.
After all, God blesses us every day of our life, whether we are good or bad. May the blessing of Almighty God be with us today and forever, Amen.
Fr. Clemente Barrón, C.P. is a member of Immaculate Conception Community in Chicago, Illinois.