Saturday, January 29, 2011

Fourth Sunday, Ordinary Time. “Seek Justice”: the Beatitudes lay the foundation for justice both now and forever

This week we saw two very different kinds of crowds gathering in two different parts of the world. Here in Washington, and in other places around our country, peacable believers marched for the sanctity of every human life. In Egypt and elsewhere, on the other hand, angry and violent mobs attacked police, military forces and government leaders to demand worldly goods like food, jobs and economic improvements.

When we see these events we sometimes wonder: will the meek truly inherit the earth? Can there be justice in this world? Or will only the “violent bear it away”? Do the people in Egypt and in other places racked by violent demonstrations have a better chance at justice? Well yes, sometimes, but only in this world in a limited way, for a very short period, only materially and through visiting injustice or even violent death upon others: the way of the wicked he thwarts.

In places like Egypt we can learn the truth about poverty as we see how truly little others sometimes have to live on.

“The People of the ‘poor’ - those who, humble and meek, rely solely on their God's mysterious plans, who await the justice, not of men but of the Messiah - are in the end the great achievement of the Holy Spirit's hidden mission during the time of the promises that prepare for Christ's coming. It is this quality of heart, purified and enlightened by the Spirit, which is expressed in the Psalms. In these poor, the Spirit is making ready ‘a people prepared for the Lord.’ " (CCC 716)

In our country, joblessness and homelessness are on the rise and for these and other reasons we find ourselves in a time when we are learning to sympathize better with the poor as we learn to trim our own appetites for spending and to live more consistently within our means. When it comes to earthly resources, all of us must face the truth about their limited nature. Whether in our parish family or in our families at home, the truth about our limited financial or other means can set us free for better planning and joyful sacrifice as well as a call for greater generosity if conditions make it possible.

God’s justice will come in its fullness one day forever. But, now, through the invitation issued by Christ in the Beatitudes, we are called to be instruments of God’s will as he sends us out to be humble with the humble, meek with the meek and poor with the poor.

Whether we mourn over the broken bodies of millions of aborted unborn boys and girls or share through prayer and penance in suffering of those Christian brothers and sisters martyred in Iraq, Egypt and in too many other places around the world, we prepare for rejoicing together with them in the kingdom. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.”

In the Beatitudes the Lord is not discounting efforts to seek food, shelter, clothing, a job or a home, although He seems to omit any mention of these things. When he praises the “poor in spirit” he is not pretending that we need not seek the basic material resources made necessary by our bodily existence. He is simply, rather, teaching us to place first in our lives what will last forever, and thereby granting us the key to happiness.

The meek are not so because they refuse to ask for justice but because of how they ask for justice. This week in Washington and elsewhere, Christians and others by the hundreds of thousands peacefully and cheerfully marched together to demand respect in our laws for the fundamental principle of justice which requires protecting and defending all human life from the moment of conception until natural death. By doing so, they may not right now be able to secure the lives of every unborn baby or hospice patient whose life is judged burdensome because of suffering. But by such witness and faithful obedience they will surely “inherit the land” of the kingdom prepared for them and for us from the foundation of the world.

And also through our faithful and holy witness to God’s will in union with them we continue to persevere in seeking a change someday, hopefully sooner rather than later.

As the prophet in our first reading exhorts us, when we live the Beatitudes we answer the call to to “Seek the LORD” through earthly realities, whether on behalf of the poor in Egypt or Haiti or right here in our midst. We seek justice when we put His will first, for ourselves and for others, whether in sharing our material goods through direct assistance or in spiritual solidarity made possible by our communion of prayer and sacrifice in Christ.

The Beatitudes must inspire the intentions and spirit of our prayer.

Prayer in the events of each day and each moment is one of the secrets of the kingdom revealed to 'little children,' to the servants of Christ, to the poor of the Beatitudes. It is right and good to pray so that the coming of the kingdom of justice and peace may influence the march of history, but it is just as important to bring the help of prayer into humble, everyday situations; all forms of prayer can be the leaven to which the Lord compares the kingdom." (CCC 2660)

True happiness begins now, even if only in hope through the Beatitudes, but is more than fulfilled in the infinite blessedness of eternity. The beatitudes are our daily guide for planning as God does, with His wisdom, which is our highest good and most firm foundation for hope.


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