Daily Reflection
September 13th, 2001
Daniel Hendrickson, S.J.
Philosophy Department
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Memorial of St. John Chrysostom
Colossians 3:12-17
Psalms 150:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
Luke 6:27-38

My reaction to the Beatitudes are never favorable.  Blessed are you:  the poor, the hungry, the weeping, the hated.  Blessed?  “Yeah, right!”  Blessed are you in financial desperation as you seek shelter, work, or perhaps just a sense of worth.  Blessed are you without proper nourishment as you beg for food or look for it in dumpsters.  Blessed are you in your depression, the sadness which controls your day with moods dark and daunting.  And blessed, finally, are you the despised.  The color of your skin, the lifestyle you lead, your contrary arguments, your difference is . . . well . . . different.  And blessed are you in the animosity of such difference.

Stranger, yet, of the Beatitudes:  it's tough now, and will be for quite some time, but heaven!  Ah . . . heaven . . .  reward awaits, and what a reward it will be!  But yes, you’ll have to wait.

Is my reading of the Beatitudes warped?  Am I alone in my discomfort with this Gospel message?  Perhaps.  Let me offer a confession, however.  Sometimes the idea of the Beatitudes seems quite appealing.  Today’s misery is tomorrow’s comfort.  In the end it’s all about the last being first and all that jazz.  The price of poverty, hunger, sadness, hatred doesn’t seem so bad:  a big price indeed, but with a truly great reward.  The poor, the hungry, the weeping, the hated – all of them, they’ll be okay in the end.

But the Beatitudes are not the end of the story, nor is my superficial understanding of them.  Two ideas for us, then.  From the human person, let’s strip away that which determines wealth and nourishment, our happiness, and how we are cherished and embraced by others.  Let’s construct a picture of the human person beyond all the factors our culture determines as valuable.  Are we still able to maintain the dignity of the human person?  For sure!  Dignified is he and she created by God, bestowed with life, loved and cherished without condition.  That alone makes you blessed, and me.  So also with she who is poor and he who is hungry.  Moreover, the Beatitudes are not the end of the story.  While they can seek to proclaim the dignity of human life as a gift from God despite our possessions and successes, they also seek to show us that there are, indeed, others without not just the privileges we enjoy, but the most basic resources we take for granted.  Perhaps some of what we enjoy they, too, would enjoy.

God will deal with us heaven.  That’s part of how we try to understand life eternal and salvation.  The mystery of it is ominous, but certainly promising.  The Gospel today asks some big questions, I suppose.  

What is it that truly dignifies each and every one of us?  

And how can that wait for heaven be a bit more comfortable for some of our neighbors?

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