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. (Luke 6:20 ff)
Today’s liturgy offers this Gospel. What words for us to hear on September 11th, which also happens to be my birthday. They don’t sound like much of a blessing to me: poor, hungry weeping, hated, excluded, insulted…just as dissonant in my ears today as they must have been when Jesus first pronounced them.
Isn’t that the way God gets to us in Jesus? He goes against the conventional wisdom. Those who live in poverty or are starving, those who are grieving or oppressed or marginalized, do not feel blessed by God. Nor do I think that Jesus said these things just as a promise of rewards that await us in heaven.
Jesus looked out at the people in front of him and knew all their pains, their heartaches and their frustrations, their worries and powerlessness. He spoke these words to encourage and to animate them. His compassion overflowed in these blessings. “The Kingdom of God IS yours.” Present tense: NOW! Embracing the fullness of NOW asks us to let go of past hurts as well as fears for the future.
The Spanish word for the Beatitudes is bienaventuranzas which literally means “good adventures”. I like that translation! An adventure is an exciting experience, and so these beatitudes promise an especially good adventure when we’re walking with Jesus, even when we can’t imagine how that could work out, given the circumstances.
On my birthday this year I feel like I’m five years old because five years ago I started a new stage of my life: my after-cancer life. In September 2008 I had just finished my last chemotherapy and my first PET scan was negative for persistent or metastatic disease. I could hardly imagine that I would be celebrating 57 years in such good health. It has been a bienaventura in so many ways.
I didn’t dare to imagine five years ago the great adventure to which God beckoned me. It is a blessing to live in the present moment, fully alive and grateful with every fiber of my being. It is the blessing that makes each day count.