Sybil 1997

Gospel text

Luke 6: 17-26

17 After descending from the mountain with the twelve disciples he had chosen, Jesus found himself in a plain with a large crowd of his disciples, and a large part of the people from all over Judea, Jerusalem, and the maritime regions of Tyre and Sidon, 18 who had come to listen to him and to be healed of their diseases. People tormented by disturbed minds were treated. 19 The whole crowd tried to touch him, because a surprising energy came out of him and healed them all.

20 And looking at his disciples, he began to say to them,

Bravo, you poor people,
Because the domain of God is for you.
Bravo, if you're hungry right now,
Because you will be filled.
Bravo, if you're crying right now,
Because you will know laughter.
22 Bravo, if men ever begin to hate you, to distance you from them, to reproach you with insults and to reject you as evil beings because of the new Adam.
23 When that happens, rejoice and leap for joy, for your value is great in the sight of God. For it is exactly the same fate that your fathers subjected to the prophets.
24 On the other hand, I pity you, rich people,
Because you already have your comfort.
25 I pity you, who are satisfied at this moment,
Because you will know hunger.
I pity you, who are laughing right now,
Because you will know the mourning and the tears.
26 I pity you, who are complimented by all men,
For this is exactly what your fathers did with regard to false prophets.


Being on the road with few things

Gospel commentary - Homily

Life is a long journey

His name is Wang. Her name is Sun Jing. To survive, this couple leaves their 2-year-old daughter, Siting, in the arms of Wang's father and leaves the Dongfa village of their native Manchuria to travel 500 kilometers further south to Dalian, he to work in an iron mine, she to work in a fish processing plant. Hunger pay for 10 hours a day of work. She will stay in the dormitory of the factory. He will share with 20 other workers a housing of 2 rooms. Not even a picture of his daughter, otherwise he would cry too much. Once a year, the couple returns to Dongfa to hand their meager savings to Wang's father, so that he survives as well as their daughter. The latter wonders who these two strangers are, even if it is repeated to her that it's mom and dad.

The story of this Chinese couple could also be that of thousands of others displaced by major global economic trends and national policies. It was to all these people that I thought when I heard the Gospel of this day: "Bravo, you poor people, because the domain of God is for you." When one has no control on his situation, what else is left but this cry that calls for a better future?

But if we do not pay attention, this account of the beatitudes by Luke can have a stifling and guilt-making character: "I pity you, the rich people!" It is as if one must feel guilty of being wealthy or happy and that the ideal is to be hungry and to be sad. It is clear that such an interpretation does not make sense. Moreover, Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man, has been honored by the Gospels by pointing out his gesture of giving Jesus a burial. How should one read these Beatitudes?

The key to interpretation here is a vision that the human being is called for unlimited growth. Life is a perpetual movement that only ceases with death. It is the characteristic of life to evolve constantly, to adapt to the infinite, to change as long as the right answers are not found, then to resume the journey when new questions arise. The idea of life as a long journey is one of the points of emphasis of Luke that he presents to us under the theme of a Jesus who is going to Jerusalem for 10 chapters (9,51 - 18,14) and gives the essence of his teaching to the disciples.

But where does the problem come from? Wealth becomes a problem when it stops the evolution of the human being, with the illusion that he is fullfilled and all his needs are satisfied, and the requirements that nothing should change around him. We know this scene of the rich man who has fulfilled the commandments of God since his childhood and who asks Jesus what he must do to have eternal life. When Jesus invites him to go one step further and follow him on the road, the rich man returned sad, unable to grow further, because he is a prisoner of his properties: "I pity you, who are laughing right now, because you will know the mourning and the tears.". But among the things that can hinder a true journey and destroy life, let us not believe that there is only wealth; there is also fear in all its forms, there is also the thirst for power, there is also the attachment to prestige and recognition from the world both civil and religious: "I pity you, who are complimented by all men".

Should we bless poverty? Not necessarily. There is poverty that destroys, there is poverty that turns into gall and envy rage. But what must be blessed are conditions of life that allow one to experience life in all its truth and to escape its multiple illusions which are pitfalls. We must bless these conditions that help us stay on the move, keeping alive our desire for a better world. But the question is: under what conditions do we stay on the move? Unfortunately, it is often when we have nothing left to lose that we agree to ask the real questions, we agree to make big leaps forward.

It is normal for a young person to be on the road to a better world. But even in his thirties Jesus traveled through Palestine to tell us about a better world. Where are we? Are we able to accompany Wang and Sun Jing? Are we on the same path as Jesus?


-André Gilbert, Gatineau, October 2006