1 Corinthians 7:25-31
A Time for Beatitudes
Yesterday was the prelude to Luke’s Beatitudes that we will read through Saturday.
He showed us Jesus praying. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus prays at important moments of his life – his Baptism, when he taught the forgiveness of sin, at the Transfiguration and beginning of the Passion. After this prayer, Jesus selects the twelve who will be apostles. Having prayed and called the apostles, they come down the mountain and are surrounded by a large crowd. Jesus heals everyone. Then he looks at his disciples, his followers, and speaks the Beatitudes.
Jesus began his ministry, announcing the fulfillment of Isaias, ‘to bring good news to the poor and liberty to captives.’ Through word and deed, he is at work proclaiming the Kingdom of God. Speaking as a prophet, he now describes the values necessary for those who will work for the Kingdom of God. They will believe that the poor will be rich, the hungry satisfied, the weeping will laugh, and those whose values are rejected, who are pushed to the margins and called evil, they will be like the prophets of old. They will receive the reward of the prophets.
For Luke, Jesus is a prophet, and those who follow Jesus will share his calling. Expect a surprise; there will be a great reversal. Woe to the rich and satisfied, those now laughing, and the false prophets!
We might imitate Jesus this week and surround our reflection on the Beatitudes with prayer. The Beatitudes are real and among us today. It is not just those trapped in war or made refugees who are poor and hungry. The pandemic has spread hunger and poverty along with illness. Weeping is close at hand. Weeping follows suffering and pain, but anger follows next – for the good of for the bad – to redress the causes of suffering. We are dealing with the anger of much frustration. Values are rejected, people are marginalized, and judgments passed. Many ‘deaths,’ not just the physical deaths, but things that touch the control of many aspects of life that we take for granted, cause us sorrow. The pandemic we expect and hope will bring with it new scientific understanding and health. We hope there will be a deepening knowledge of our human family that even as values are tested, we will grow closer together in community.
The Beatitudes tell us we shall ‘laugh.’ The only use of that word in the New Testament.
And we will ‘dance.’ The word used when John ‘leaped’ in the womb of Elizabeth upon the visit of Mary, who carries the Savior in her womb. Strong but simple words in the Beatitudes. Let us read them alongside our newspapers these days; hopeful blessings alongside worrisome news. Jesus said them looking at his disciples; let us surround them with prayer and turn our hope-filled faces to Our Lord.
Today we celebrate the feast of St. Peter Claver. He lived the Beatitudes among slaves, the poorest of the poor. He never saw a system that was a daily contradiction to living the values of Christ change. We don’t know his weeping or deepest hungers or frustrations. He believed the Beatitudes and in living them did what makes one holy.
Fr. William Murphy, CP, is the pastor of Immaculate Conception parish in Jamaica, New York.