February 12, 2010
Heaven is All Yours
5th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Luke 6: 17; 20-26 “Blessed are the poor. Woe to you who are rich”
Jewish law teachers used “contrast” as one of their techniques when they preach. In our gospel, Jesus stood on the ground and used “blessing and curse” contrast to teach his disciples: “Blessed are poor! Woe to you who are rich!” (Luke 6: 20, 24). It was not an open declaration against rich people. Jesus has nothing against wealth and being rich, in fact some of his disciples were socially affluent and powerful. The correct meaning of “poor” and “rich” in Jesus’ time would be “socially unfortunate and powerless” and “greedy” respectively. Thus, anybody, rich or poor alike, in our present meaning and context could be considered “blessed or cursed” in the eyes of God. This was the context when Jesus preached this heart-shaking Beatitudes.
To fully understand and appreciate the meaning of the Beatitudes, it should be seen in the context of discipleship. Last Sunday, we learned the disciples left their boats and followed Jesus (Luke 5:11). Levi did the same thing (Luke 5:28). They gave up everything and opted to be poor. They were blessed upon discovering that happiness was not attached on wealth and power but on following Jesus. To discover Jesus is to discover happiness, and then everything in this world becomes secondary. This theme is also highlighted in the parable of the pearl of great price. (Matthew 13:444-46). This is the joy of discipleship.
To follow Jesus is not a walk in the shore. There is a call to “leave our boat” and be poor in spirit: “Blessed are the poor...” (Luke 6:20). The next three beatitudes after the first beatitude are the cost of discipleship: You will be hungry, you will weep, and you will be insulted and persecuted. (Luke 6: 21-22). Jesus is very honest to tell the hardship to expect in responding to His call and what’s store for them: “Be not dismay for the Kingdom of God is yours.” (Luke 6:20). The Beatitudes give us the reason why we should hold our ground until the end.
Saint Syncletica of Alexandria, known for her charity, humility, and internal torments, summarized the struggles and hope of discipleship: “In the beginning there is a struggle and a lot of work for those who come near to God. But after that, there is an indescribable joy. It is like just building a fire: at first it’s smoky and your eyes water, but later you get the desired result. Thus we ought to light the Divine Fire in ourselves with tears and effort.”
Following Jesus requires us to “leave our boat.” Peter, Levi and the disciples did it. We should free ourselves from the clutch of wealth and power. Our inordinate attachments could stop us from doing what we ought to do. Our society teaches us to buy, buy, and buy more things for our security and social status. We unconsciously hoard things (food, clothes, medicines, DVDs, books, magazines, chocolates, and others) under the guise of “we could use them in the future.” Anything we are not using is not ours already. Give them to those in need and feel good inside. Hoarding is a sign that we don’t trust God’s providence and generosity.
This week is Ash Wednesday, let’s fast and abstain from our inordinate attachments to things, feelings, and people. Let’s “leave our boat” especially our attachments, so that we could be free to do what we ought to do and follow Jesus.
Today is Valentine’s Day, renew your commitment to God, to your vocation, and to your family. Surrender your heart to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus who loves us tenderly. Hear Him say, “Rejoice and leap for joy, heaven is all yours.”
Fr.Willy M. Samson,SJ / Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles / 02/14/10