Sunday, February 17, 2019

“He who wants to win the world for Christ must have the courage to come in conflict with it.”

“The church must suffer for speaking the truth, for pointing out sin, for uprooting sin. No one wants to have a sore spot touched, and therefore a society with so many sores twitches when someone has the courage to touch it and say: “You have to treat that. You have to get rid of that. Believe in Christ. Be converted.” ― Oscar A. Romero, The Violence of Love

Gospel Text: (LK 6:17, 20-26)
Jesus came down with the twelve
and stood on a stretch of level ground
with a great crowd of his disciples
and a large number of the people
from all Judea and Jerusalem
and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon.
And raising his eyes toward his disciples he said:
“Blessed are you who are poor,
for the kingdom of God is yours.
Blessed are you who are now hungry,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who are now weeping,
for you will laugh.
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.
Rejoice and leap for joy on that day!
Behold, your reward will be great in heaven.
For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way.
But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
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.”

Whether we are choosing the higher good or avoiding sin, our journey often requires that we climb uphill and swim against the current. Vigilance and courage are needed.  The counsel of the wicked may be all around us, coming from media, popular culture, and even from our friends who have lost their way.  Going along may gain us approval and acceptance, but it leads to perdition, not blessing.  The company of the insolent can be consoling or even entertaining for a time, but it drains away joy and gratitude required for faithful living. (Examine the grievance culture that seems to be ascending in our society and you will witness the paucity of joy and gratitude, but ample fruits of envy, vengeance, bitterness, and destruction.) 

Today’s gospel might sound perplexing, but it makes perfect sense when placed in this context:  we must discern by reference to fidelity to eternal truths, not immediate consequences. External signs like prosperity and accolades that we prefer may instead be warning signs on the road to perdition. Suffering, frustration, and derision from others may instead be signs of blessing when they are the consequence of holding on to the truth. The power to do evil and afflict the righteous is temporary; justice will come because Jesus, himself, will return to bring it.  Today’s Gospel is reinforced by Paul’s teaching that tells us to hold on to the deeper truth that our Lord’s resurrection and triumph over death, sin, and evil, which means we will triumph, too.

Who or what do we trust to sustain us?  To whom do we go for counsel and advice?  Are we willing to experience distress and loss because we choose to hold on to truths that are unpopular?  Can joy and blessedness come in the midst of trials, which mean more than the fleeting delights of our waywardness?  These are important questions for us to ponder.  Pray that this truth of the resurrection will become more real to us, and that we will have the wisdom and courage to embrace it more fully, no matter where it leads. We know that He who leads us is faithful.  Thanks be to God.    

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