Jesus frames his teaching today in a series of short statements. He highlights people who are suffering in society, and then reverses their situation, giving it a positive spin. “Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours.”
Jesus then focuses on people who are successful and happy in society. He again twists their situation giving it a negative spin. But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.” Why is Jesus presenting a vision of a world that’s turned upside down?
We have to be careful how we understand this passage because it can be interpreted fatalistically. Jesus is challenging our way of thinking. He’s breaking the social norms we so blindly follow. No one is better than anyone else. Each of us experiences some form of poverty that we must overcome. Each of us is blinded by illusions of wealth and power that must be broken.
St. Peter Julian Eymard, founder of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, understood this so very well. He was spiritual director to a number of wealthy women. He devotedly ministered to them addressing their inner poverty. But he also put his life on the line to minister to the poor of Paris, preparing adults for their First Communion and, when possible, assisting them in their need.
He wasn’t teaching the poor that their only hope for happiness was in heaven. His vision united heaven and earth. He gave them a very powerful image to contemplate: the “heaven of the Eucharist.” He was teaching them that the Eucharist, celebrated at Mass and contemplated in prayer, is the spiritual fuel that Jesus gave us to strengthen us in the battle against structures and mindsets that perpetuate inequality and division. Today we’re reminded of our call, as disciples of Jesus, to continue his ministry of uniting heaven and earth in a world where we can look at one another as brothers and sisters, a world where everyone is truly equal.
Lord, Jesus, fill me with your life. Give me your eyes so that I can see beyond the structures that keep so many in our world in darkness. Give me your heart to battle injustice with your love. I commit my life to you. Through me, may your Eucharistic Kingdom come!