Our choice to be blessed or not. LUKE 6:17, 20–26
On many of the occasions that we encounter Jesus in the scripture we are drawn to Him as He interacts with and teaches the crowds with whom He mingles. Today, on yet another occasion, He offers us powerful words of hope as He compassionately ministers to the people who had come to draw from His well of comfort and healing. They were following Him and seeking solace “…and to be cured of their diseases”.
But more importantly, this omniscient Son of God was privy to their pain and to their struggle, and as He outlined their various situations, He proceeded to show them there was hope for them in spite of their individual circumstances. He showed that, in sharp juxtaposition to the wealthy, their goodness and faithfulness were key to their happiness.
Jesus always has a heart for the poor and the downtrodden, those marginalised and living on the fringes of society. The truth of the time, and today, was that the thousands who were following Jesus were probably struggling with many of the same issues with which we struggle—there would’ve been poverty, abuse, abandonment and other personal disappointments to render them disheartened. Then here comes this charismatic man toward whom they gravitate because He gave such hope wherever He went.
By the same token, His words of warning and condemnation readily flowed toward those who lived seemingly secure in their abundance, which many of them may have obtained by exploiting the poor and the needy. But Jesus is the embodiment of truth and, even though many would not have appreciated it, He held up a mirror of truth to the people of the time causing them, and us, to question our actions toward one another.
The word of God is a powerful soul-searcher: “Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart” (Heb 4: 12). With this in mind, each of this Sunday’s readings should cause us to search within to see where we are.
Are we leaning toward the abuse of the poor through our excessive accumulation of worldly possessions? How did we obtain these possessions? Are we contributing in any way toward the exploitation of others through the prevalence of and the abuse of drugs in our society, or maybe otherwise through emotional, verbal or sexual abuse?
Can we honestly say that we are giving of our time, talent and treasure in the service of God? Carnival is coming. Are we consumed with the blatant excesses that so often accompany the season and which we so blithely justify—all in the name of happiness?
Jesus continues to show us that, despite all appearances and what the world teaches us, our happiness doesn’t lie in the accumulation of material things nor in our being accepted by the world. Rather these could very well indicate a dangerous trend.
We are called to ask ourselves if we are living in conformity with the standards of the world which seem to be taking us further and further away from Godly principles. Jesus teaches that we are blessed and should rejoice when we are recognised as not being of the world but instead have chosen the better path in conformity with His standards (Jn 15:18–19).
So as we prepare to live the Lenten season, let us not lose sight of the fact that our individual attitudes are truly being called into question here. It is our faith in the resurrection that enables us to cling to the promise of a new life in Jesus, regardless of what is happening all around us.
It is this same risen Christ that proclaims to us today the message of hope He had given to His followers thousands of years ago. They were words of hope then, just as they are meant to be to us today.
Our happiness is guaranteed if we live in accordance with the tenets spelt out for us by the Christ who ministered to the multitudes thousands of years ago. This takes us back to the words of the first reading as expressed through the prophet Jeremiah 17:5–8, who reminds us of the blessings in store for those who put their trust in the Lord as against those who don’t.
It is now left for us to choose.
The Gospel Meditations for February are by Anne Marie Richardson, a retired educator and a parishioner of the Santa Rosa/Malabar cluster.