6th Sunday of Ordinary Time
February 17, 2019
Beatitudes: A Challenge for Us
Today’s gospel reading has led me to reflect a bit first about myself.
To begin with, I, as a person, like to have enough money and some financial security, and yet Jesus says, “Woe to you who are rich.” I enjoy a good meal and going out to dinner at times, and yet Jesus says, “Woe to you who are full.”
I like having a good time with my friends, and yet Jesus says, “Woe to you who laugh now.” And I value being accepted and respected by others, and yet Jesus says, “Woe to you who are well thought of.”
Today’s gospel also led me to think a little bit about our society or culture. I think it is fair to say that ours is a consumer-based system that markets things so as to get us to feel that we want or even need new cars, designer clothes, the latest Smartphone, and on it goes.
The emphasis is on owning more and more things. So, I have wondered about all of this in relation to Jesus’ statements today.
What Do the Beatitudes Mean?
These statements are known as the Beatitudes.
The question is: what do they really mean? How are we to understand them?
Certainly, when Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor, the hungry, the weeping and the disliked,”I do not think he really wants us to be that way. He doesn’t want us to be unhappy or in pain.
And when Jesus says, “Woe to you who are rich, full, laughing and well thought of,”I don’t think he is saying that these things are wrong. So, what is he saying?
The more I think about these statements, the more I see some important moral values underneath them. I see three values here and these serve as standards for gauging how closely we are following Jesus.
Three Moral Values
The first moral value is: do we place our trust in God?
Are we looking for happiness through our relationship with God, through prayer and spirituality? Do we live with an awareness that more money or more possessions or more comforts may bring us some pleasure, but will not really satisfy us or make us happy?
On a bigger level, does our social and economic system try to get us to trust things as the source of happiness? And with respect to this, are we in control of the system, or is the system controlling us?
The second moral value: do we use the resources of this earth wisely?
Are we careful not to waste water or energy or food? When we are thinking of buying something, do we at least think about whether it is a need or simply a want?
On a bigger level, is our society respectful of the world’s limited resources? Do we have adequate laws to protect our rivers and oceans and air?
And the third moral value: do we share what we have with those who do not have?
Do we give at least something to charity to help those who are in need? Are we sensitive to the plight of the homeless and the unemployed?
On a bigger level, is our society serious about providing a good education for all children? Are we at least interested in finding a workable way to provide health care for all citizens, as our Catholic social teaching calls for?
So, I find these sayings of Jesus today quite challenging and I see three moral values or standards underneath them.
1) Do we place our trust in God above anything else? 2) Do we use the resources of the earth wisely? And 3) Do we share adequately?
Our answers will tell us how closely we are following Jesus.