By Orlando Hernandez
In today’s Gospel (Lk 6: 20-26) we’re blessed with the “Four Beatitudes” of the Gospel of Luke. I was led to reread Max Lucado’s wonderful book “ The Applause of Heaven”, with his incredibly beautiful interpretation of the Beatitudes. Then I also read pages 70-99 in Pope Benedict XVI’s book “Jesus of Nazareth”. In these pages on the Beatitudes I always discover new treasures that lead me to the meaning of who Christ is, what our church should be about, and what Christian life always is: the unfolding of Love. I really recommend these books.
Rather than present the wonderful thoughts in these two works, I was led to view the
Gospel reading as a form of prayer, a chance for a Christian to discover what message Jesus has for him or her today. He blesses us with the grace of His words.
This is what I experienced. First, I encountered a fifth beatitude (besides the four presented in Luke). The first line in the reading is , “Raising His eyes toward His disciples Jesus said:”(v..20a). I imagine what it would have been like to have been there, and to experience those eyes, probably closed in meditation, slowly opening and looking into your heart! Sometimes prayer can be just so rewarding. My mind searches anxiously into the darkness, and suddenly a light seems to dawn, bathing my soul with a Love too great to bear! This is a blessing, a happiness, that sooner or later the Beautiful One brings to anyone who wishes to be His disciple.
Then He says: “ Blessed are you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours.”( v..20b). I imagine the folks in Florida, coming out of their hot, dark houses to see the devastation outside. They look at the bright sky after the storm has left. The quality of their lives has certainly been impoverished, but they are safe! They relish in the fact of their being alive, God’s great gift, and many of us are blessed with a delightful sense of gratitude. Loved ones call from everywhere. Neighbors and volunteers are there for each other. We get a glimpse of the Kingdom of God.
Our Lord says: “Blessed are you who are hungry, for you will be satisfied.”(v..21a). What an awesome sensation, the hunger for Jesus! What an incredible gift He offers us everyday in the Eucharist. I experience this overwhelming sensation that is simultaneously physical, mental, and spiritual, this need for Him. And He gives Himself to us. Why does He love us like this?
“Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh.”(v..21b) . Father John Powers CP often says that sorrow is the flaw in love. I was remembering my friend Edith, whom we buried only last week. Her daughter had told me who that beautiful young man in that Bar Mitzvah portrait had been. In our visits Edith had never talked about him. She had lost him many years ago when he was only 20. I thought of the pain she must have carried all these years. I thought about how it would feel to lose my son, or one of my grandchildren. And I missed her. I began to cry in the most loud, unseemly way, out there alone in my backyard. It sounded like laughter, and it reminded me of the many times we had laughed together. She was a lot of fun. I know we will laugh together again.
The Lord says, “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man.”(v..22) Last Friday, at the Douglaston Center I saw the Martin Scorsese movie, “Silence”, presented by Father Robert Lauder. Being a disciple of Christ can lead to much horrible suffering and death. My discipleship has fortunately never challenged me this way. When I was young, and I had left he church, I would see Christians expressing their faith, talking to me about it. I would be respectful, but in my mind I would laugh and say, “fanatics”, “crazy hallelujahs”, or “poor deluded people”. I would feel sorry for them. Sometimes I had to tell them, “Listen, leave me alone!”.
Funny how now I am one of “those people”, and get some of my old attitude directed at me. It makes me sad, because when I “Rejoice and leap for joy” with my Sunday prayer group, I realize what they’re missing, and I pray for them.
I know that tomorrow I could read this same passage again and receive different messages, different graces, different words from the Word of God, whose love for us is inexhaustible. He pours upon us Beatitude upon Beatitude. Thank you, Beloved.