'Blessed are you who are poor.' Sunday Reflections, 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C


Christ Pantocrator, Cefalù Cathedral, Italy [Web Gallery of Art]
'Pantocrator' may be translated as 'Almighty' or 'All-powerful'.


Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Gospel Luke 6:17, 20-26 (New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition)   

Jesus came down with the twelve and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon.
Then he looked up at his disciples and said:
‘Blessed are you who are poor,
    for yours is the kingdom of God.
‘Blessed are you who are hungry now,
    for you will be filled.
‘Blessed are you who weep now,
    for you will laugh.
‘Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice on that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.
 ‘But woe to you who are rich,
    for you have received your consolation.
‘Woe to you who are full now,
    for you will be hungry.
‘Woe to you who are laughing now,
    for you will mourn and weep.
‘Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.


Prayer before the meal
Adriaen Jansz van Ostade [Web Gallery of Art]

Nearly 40 years ago when I was in charge of a small formation house for young men preparing for the diocesan priesthood in Mindanao, Philippines, I came to know a young girl named Patricia. She was aged 10 or 11 when we first met. I learned that her father had died when she was an infant. She 'adopted' me and called me Tatay, Dad, as she still does. She is now a widow and a grandmother.

The first time I visited her home, a small wooden structure built on stilts, I thought that it might fall over. Patricia's family, like most of the families around them, were poor, though not destitute. They struggled from day to day and managed to get by.

Very often after class in the public elementary school Patricia would drop by the formation house for a chat. One day when we were talking in the dining room upstairs we heard the 'clump-clump-clump' of somebody coming up the stairs wearing heavy boots and carrying a staff. It was a man named William Smith, probably the poorest person I have ever met. It was believed that his father had been an American soldier. William was tall and thin, never looked healthy, had very poor sight and had no home of his own. Sometimes children would tease him in a disrespectful way. He would go from parish to parish and the priests, mostly Columbans, would give him a place to sleep, food, clothes, shoes and some money. After a few days he would head off to another parish. Poor William went to his reward when struck by a truck one day. May he rest in peace.

When William arrived at the top of the stairs Patricia went over to him, took him by the hand, sat him down at a table and brought him something to eat and to drink. I asked her some years later if she remembered this incident. She had no recollection of it whatever.

The Infant Jesus Distributing Bread to Pilgrims
Murillo [Web Gallery of Art]

St Matthew's first beatitude reads, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The New English Bible translation of this is, How blest are those who know their need of God; the kingdom of heaven is theirs

St Luke's version has a different emphasis. He shows us Jesus speaking about those who are economically poor. Jesus is also, I think, giving a message of hope pointing towards eternal life where the injustice that is the cause of so much economic poverty will no longer have any force, where God's will reigns. The words of Jesus also call us to work for a world in the here and now where economic poverty caused by greed and injustice no longer exists.

Jesus has very harsh words for those whose focus is only on the present life and the ultimately shallow 'rewards' so much of it offers: But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.

God reveals himself as Love in so many 'insignificant' moments. What I saw that day nearly 40 years ago was an expression of God's pure love, a child who was poor serving an adult who had absolutely nothing of his own. Patrica was blessed by God in serving William and he was blessed by God in being served by a child. I have been blessed by this little incident ever since. The kingdom of God broke through that afternoon. 

Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.



Antiphona ad introitum   Entrance Antiphon Cf Ps 30[31]:3-4

Esto mihi in Deum protectionem
Be my protector, O God,
et in locum refugii, ut salvum me facias.
a mighty stronghold to save me.
Quoniam firmamentum meum et refugium meum es tu,
For you are my rock, my stronghold!
et propter nomen tuum dux mihi eris, et enutries me.
Lead me, guide me, for the sake of your name.

Ps. In te, Domine, speravi, non confundar in aeternum: in iustitia tua libera me (et eripe me).
In you, 0 Lord, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame. In your justice rescue me and deliver me. 
v. Gloria Patri et filio et Spiritui Sancto.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.

Esto mihi in Deum protectionem
Be my protector, O God,
et in locum refugii, ut salvum me facias.
a mighty stronghold to save me.
Quoniam firmamentum meum et refugium meum es tu,
For you are my rock, my stronghold!
et propter nomen tuum dux mihi eris, et enutries me.
Lead me, guide me, for the sake of your name.

The complete text above is sung or said in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass (the 'Old Mass') while the text in bold is that used in the Ordinary Form (the 'New Mass').

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