Discipleship includes counting blessings -- even when we don't feel blessed
by Sister Ann Rehrauer
If there is any link between Sunday's first reading and the Gospel, perhaps it’s Jeremiah’s maxim: "Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is in God." Jeremiah knew something first-hand about trust. He hadn’t asked to be a prophet and he didn’t seek the office for himself. But he prophesied because he felt compelled to speak God’s word – almost as if he had no choice.
And of all the prophets, he had a particularly difficult time with the people to whom he preached – they spread nasty rumors about him, called him unpatriotic, threw him in the cistern, and blamed him for the evil that befell Israel. Yet he was faithful to what God asked and trusted that somehow God would bring good out of whatever evil was going to happen.
Today’s Gospel account is also about living a life that calls for trust in God. It’s the rendering of the Beatitudes – but from the perspective of St. Luke, who had a special care for those who were poor and didn’t always seem to be the “blessed” in society.
It’s easy to trust God when life is going well and we have a financial cushion, when we are well-fed and successful, and when people like us. We take these things as signs of being blessed by God. But when things are not going our way, when our investments fail or our spouse gets sick, or children reject us – that’s when the real virtue of trust gets practiced, and our faith in God’s love for us gets challenged!
We are most familiar with the eight beatitudes in Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount (chapter 5) where he calls “blessed” those who are poor in spirit and those who hunger for righteousness. Luke gives us only four of the beatitudes, but he puts them as a direct address to the listener (“Blessed are you who are poor. Blessed are you who are hungry now. Blessed are you who weep. Blessed are you when people hate and exclude you). At the end of his listing, Luke closes with four “woes” that show the opposite situation (woe to you who are rich, woe to you who are filled, woe to you who laugh now, and woe to you when people speak well of you). Those are not, in themselves, wrong or bad -- unless they make us believe we are self-sufficient and the source of our own blessings.
As we reflect on our own trust level in the face of life’s challenges this week, we might want to think about:
- The things that burden us and the things bring us joy (what we usually call “blessings”). When do I consider myself most “blessed?”
- How important is it to me to be well thought of – and do I sacrifice my chance to be a prophetic voice, or do I avoid speaking the truth because I need to be liked and accepted? Is it ever a blessing to be reviled and excluded?
- What can I learn from being poor or hungry or in grief, or when others don’t appreciate me?
Next week, as we celebrate Valentine’s Day, may we look for and recognize the unexpected blessings and signs of being loved that will come our way.