6th Sunday Ordinary Time, Gospel of Luke 6:17, 20-26
Good morning and welcome to one of the more significant days of the year. Obviously, I am talking about the fact that today is Sunday, and we have the distinct privilege and honor of celebrating the Holy Mass. However, if that isn’t enough of a reason to celebrate, today is made even more significant in that today is the feast day of Saint Catherine Ricci, a 16th century Stigmatic who so loved the Lord, that she was granted the privilege of physically experiencing the sufferings of Christ. Oh yeah… and at least for an estimated 100 million Americans, this Sunday is significant because it is Super Bowl Sunday.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I will tell you, that for me, Super Bowl Sunday is a significant day of celebration. Not because I am a fan of the teams playing in today’s game. Nor, because I am an enthusiastic football fan. Rather, today is special to me because it is the one day of the year that I will consume the gastric wonder known as… the chili, cheese, coney, with onions, and mustard.
In case some of you are not familiar with this unique and flavor filled delight I will now enlighten you. First, you will need a can of chili. Then hot dogs, regular hot dog bun, shredded cheese, and an onion. Heat the chili and the hot dogs, place the hot dog in a bun, add some yellow mustard, smother it all with a ladle of chili, top off with cheese and onions, and Hello!!! Pure mouth pleasure!!!
In case you were wondering… today the average football fan will consume 8,000 calories. Today, as a nation, 8 million pounds of guacamole and 11.2 million pounds of potato chips will be consumed, and close to 49 million cases of beer will be purchased. It is obvious, that for about 1/3 of the population, Super Bowl Sunday is a significant day of celebration.
Now, keep this in mind as we examine today’s Gospel, and more specifically Jesus’ words, “Blessed are those who are hungry…”.
Speaking directly to his disciples, Jesus states, “Blessed are you who are poor…”, “Blessed are you who are now hungry…”, “Blessed are you who are now weeping…”, and “Blessed are you when people hate you…, exclude you…, insult you…, and denounce your name… on account of the Son of Man.”
If those words don’t make us a bit uncomfortable then give it a minute. Because Jesus continues, “Woe to you who are rich…”, “Woe to you who are filled…”, “Woe to you who laugh…,”, and “Woe to you when all speak well of you…”.
These words of our Savior can make us feel a bit uncomfortable. Is Jesus really asking his disciples to financially divest themselves and live in self-enforced poverty? Maybe… and if you need a bit more clarification, I know that Fr. Flores would like to speak with you and offer some suggestions as to how the church might assist you in removing the burden of your wealth.
Now, to be honest, I can’t really speak to you about what Jesus wants you to do with your money, however, I do think that it would be beneficial to take a moment and ponder what does it means to be poor, to be hungry, to weep, and to be hated.
Poverty is defined as lacking the basic resources and essentials needed for the minimum standard of living. The same can be said for spiritual poverty, which is the more traditional way to interpret this Gospel passage. Either way, Jesus is instructing us that living in the reality of our poverty; in the recognition that we are dependent on God for all things, is absolutely necessary for discipleship. In contrast, when we use our possessions, and believe and behave as if our possessions can insulate us from our dependence on him, we are not disciples of Christ.
Hunger is similar to poverty in that hunger is a state of want and need. In truth, hunger is a manifestation of need. As disciples of Christ, we are to manifest our need for Jesus in our daily lives. We do this first, by faithfully attending mass. Speaking for myself, do I desire the Eucharist as much as I desire my chili cheese coney with mustard and onions? We manifest our need for Jesus through prayer. Are we actively and consistently engaged in prayer? And we manifest our need for Jesus when we serve others. Are our celebrations are done so with a clear conscience because our abundance is shared with those who are in need?
To weep can be better understood through the lens of oppression. To be oppressed is to be subjected to injustice, cruelty, and control. Is there not a better definition of the consequences of sin? Do we not know that to live in sin is to live absent of peace, kindness, and freedom? As followers of Christ, we should weep for our sins, and for the sins of others, and in turn passionately seek repentance for ourselves and for others.
Finally, hatred. Jesus clearly states, “Blessed are you when people hate you…”. He is letting his disciples know that living in a manner worthy of our baptism will result in ostracization and marginalization. This is in direct opposition to our natural tendency to conform and, when that is not possible, hide our faith and abdicate our purpose of going throughout the world and making disciples.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, our challenge today is to be men and women who do not abandon our faith for comfort. Instead, we are to be men and women who embrace the knowledge that disciples of Christ do not retreat from hardship, hunger, sadness, and rejection. Christ did not call us ease and comfort. He called us to be a people of joy in the midst of trial and tragedy. He called us to be his disciples