Blessed are you who are poor - our cross draws us closer to God

Homily for the Sixth Sunday of Year C

by Fr. Tommy Lane

Blessed are you who are poor…
Blessed are you who are now hungry…
Blessed are you who are now weeping…
Blessed are you when people hate you…

Who would believe that? In Matthew the beatitude on the poor is qualified, “Blessed are the poor in spirit…” But Luke boldly says, “Blessed are you who are poor…” Matthew also qualifies the beatitude on hunger, “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness…” But Luke boldly says, “Blessed are you who are hungry now…” Who wants to be poor, or hungry, or weep or be hated? We have seen many terrible scenes of poverty, hunger, sadness and hatred on our TV screens and all the suffering they cause. Instead what people want is to be rich, to be filled now, to laugh now and be well spoken of.

In our Gospel today Jesus did not say that poverty, or hunger, or sadness or hatred is a blessing. Instead Jesus said that people are blessed when they are poor, hungry, weeping and hated. Poverty, hunger, sadness and hatred are not blessings but these conditions of need and dependence make us rely on God. When we rely on God then we are who we are meant to be, humans in relationship with God our creator. So the poverty, hunger, weeping, hatred, or whatever our cross is can be an instrument to draw us closer to God. Whatever cross we have in our lives is there for a purpose, to keep us close to God. In that sense our cross is also our blessing and what Jesus said in today’s Gospel is true,

Blessed are you who are poor…
Blessed are you who are now hungry…
Blessed are you who are now weeping…
Blessed are you when people hate you…

Just look at history. The Church has thrived under persecution. Take that persecution away and the Church in that particular place loses some of its vibrancy. Of course Jesus does not mean that in itself it is good to be poor, hungry, weeping or hated. Poverty, hunger, sadness, and hatred are social problems we should strive to conquer. Jesus told the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus reminding those with a surplus to help the needy (Luke 16:19-31). When the two men died the poor man was carried by the angels to the bosom of Abraham while the rich man was in torment in Hades.

When we are rich, filled now, laugh now and are well spoken of we may be tempted to forget about God. We may be tempted to treat the gifts of God as gods. Being rich, filled now, laughing now, and well spoken of, are not in themselves contrary to God. Abram was very rich in livestock, silver and gold (Gen 13:2) which did not prevent him from answering God’s call. It was the rich man Joseph of Arimathea who buried Jesus in his new tomb (Matt 27:57). But a certain level of maturity is required to live with worldly blessings or riches and put God first. If we lose ourselves in the blessings and riches of this world instead of losing ourselves in God of the blessings and riches it is indeed a “woe” to use the words of Jesus today. So what looks like a blessing in the eyes of the world can from the spiritual point of view turn out to be a woe and the words of Jesus are proved true,

“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.
But woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep.
Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way.” (Luke 6:24-26)

You studying for the priesthood have sacrificed many of the worldly blessings. And therefore you are truly blessed in the sense that Jesus means, and blessed even during trials. What the Lord said to Jeremiah in our first reading is true of you and of everyone putting God first,

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream:
It fears not the heat when it comes, its leaves stay green;
In the year of drought it shows no distress, but still bears fruit. (Jer 17:7-8)

Those who trust in the Lord are blessed because they believe what Paul wrote to the Corinthians in our second reading,

If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all.
But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (1 Cor 15:19-20)

Our hope is not for this life only, but for what Christ offers us. The true riches are spiritual riches, not the riches this world has to offer. True riches come from Christ who makes us spiritually rich.

For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that for your sake he became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich. (2 Cor 8:9)

Poverty, hunger, weeping and hatred are not blessings but states of need and dependence that make us rely on God. When we rely on God then we are who we are meant to be, humans in relationship with God our Creator. So poverty, hunger, weeping, hatred or whatever our own particular cross is, can be an instrument to draw us closer to God. Whatever cross we have in our lives is there for a purpose, to keep us close to God. Our cross is also our blessing and therefore,

Blessed are you who are poor…
Blessed are you who are now hungry…
Blessed are you who are now weeping…
Blessed are you when people hate you…

Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2007

This homily was delivered in Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

More homilies for the Sixth Sunday Year C

Jesus’ description of happiness

Related Homilies: Jesus’ Prescription for Happiness - the Beatitudes

The Beatitudes were lived perfectly by Jesus 2008
Are You Happy?

Only Jesus is Our Treasure

stories about about reversals

stories: difficulty of teaching the Beatitudes

stories: dialogue on the Beatitudes