Good News to the Poor

By Anne Armstrong, RE Curriculum Coordinator

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners. Isaiah 61.1

How should we live? Where do we find meaning in our lives? Why have people persevered in their Christian faith despite persecution and derision? How does the covenant in the Old Testament lead us to Jesus who answers these questions for us?  These are the essential questions being explored by students in Years 9 to 12 Religion courses this semester.

Marie Kondo tell us to let go of anything that does not spark joy in our lives. The Beatitudes call us to do the same.

They call us to declutter our lives from those values which are worldly and self-centred. 

We are challenged to find meaning and purpose in a life lived in faith. We are to live as people beloved of God, in humility, love and service of others.

We are to follow the calling from Isaiah as seen the verses above. Our meaning and purpose come from living in an ethic of love for God, others and ourselves.

The word “Beatitude” refers to a state of deep happiness or joy. These sayings turn our normal expectations upside down. Jesus is bringing us a new law, new expectations on how to live.

Each of these “blesseds” is a statement about an important aspect of how we exercise stewardship of our lives.  Each of them offers us an ideal of how to live in community. They form the basis of the Christian ethic of love.

The Greek word that Luke uses is “makarios:, doesn’t mean “blessed”, it means “happy”. The precise meaning of “makarios” is “someone who is happy”.

So where do we find real happiness? The Beatitudes give us a window into what our attitude towards created goods and earthly goods should be. It’s through detachment from earthly goods, detachment from earthly blessings, and through taking up the cross and following Christ.

Much like the popular Buddhist spirituality, or advice from positive psychologists who tell us that detachment allows us to see what we value clearly. The Gospel teachings were certainly ahead of their time.

In the Old Testament, the Jewish people saw signs of prosperity as a gift from God, a reward for their faithfulness. There are certain fundamentalist Christian groups who promote a similar interpretation with their prosperity theology.

This is certainly not the kind of theology expressed in the Magnificat in Luke. 

In Mary’s song of praise we hear that “the hungry he has filled with good things, the rich sent empty away” (Luke 1:53).

At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus reads from the prophet Isaiah during the synagogue service in his hometown of Nazareth: ‘He has sent me to bring good news to the poor’ (Luke 4:18). Clearly, God has a preferential option for the poor. 

The term option for the poor was coined by the Jesuit superior general, Fr Pedro Arrupe in 1968 and has since become a feature of Catholic Social teaching.

This love of preference for the poor, calls us to feed the hungry, support the needy, the homeless, those without health care and, above all, those without hope of a better future. (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church)

Jesus was a wisdom teacher and the Beatitudes are considered the very blueprint for Christian lifestyle. Today’s readings challenge us to live the Beatitudes as a way of life. It is a way of paradox, a way that moves us beyond the self-centred standards of the world.

The poor, the hungry, those who weep, and those who are persecuted are really the ones who are blessed. The victims of our social and economic systems, those who have been ravaged by war or have been made vulnerable by life itself are the ones who, if they place their trust in God, will be blessed in the end. They may appear to be the outcasts of this world, but, if they are filled with faith, they will inherit heaven.

The wealth of this world and its pleasures are not the blessings that we might think they are. They can blind us to the real values of life and prevent us from dying to the world and living resurrected lives in Christ.

The challenge for all of us is to live the Beatitudes as a way of discipleship, a way of persevering in difficulties, a way to find meaning and purpose and a way to live ethically.

FOR FURTHER READING

Treated as Prophets, by Greg Sunter & Reflection, by Dianne Bergant CSS

See Paul’s other resources at http://www.bne.catholic.edu.au/formationandleadership/bceo-formation/Pages/Greg-Sunter.aspx

See some of Dianne Bergant’s other articles https://www.americamagazine.org/voices/dianne-bergant

https://catholicproductions.com/blogs/mass-readings-explained-year-c/the-sixth-sunday-of-ordinary-time-year-c

https://www.dbqarch.org International Catholic Stewardship Council   

https://stpaulcenter.com/rich-in-poverty-scott-hahn-reflects-on-the-sixth-sunday-in-ordinary-time/  Scott Hahn’s reflection Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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