Sunday, May 31, 2009

2-11-2007: 6th Ordinary Time (C)

Jeremiah 17:5-8/Psalm 1/1 Corinthians 15:12,16-20/Luke 6:17,20-26
Today’s gospel of beatitude (being blessed) and the approaching Valentine’s Day (being loved) might prove to have a lot in common if we learn to read between the lines.

“While upon the shop and street I gazed,
My body of a sudden blaze;
And for twenty minutes more or less,
So great it seemed my tenderness,
That I was blessed and could bless.”

It was Yeats, I think, who wrote those lines. They might serve as a meditation for today’s Gospel of Beatitude – a word we often translate as blessed. It’s a strange word, blessed. Filled with ambiguity, we’re never quite sure what it means. Is blessing or being blessed simply a matter of saying a word and making a gesture? Perhaps the key to meaning lies in the poet’s use of tenderness.

Tenderness can connote kindness, gentleness. But it also can signify vulnerability, a soreness of sorts. In French there is a word blessure which, oddly, translates not as blessing but wound. Blessing as joy is born of tenderness, of vulnerability, of wounded-ness. Pop art celebrating Valentine’s Day has long pictured a cherubic Cupid shooting his arrow into hearts to awaken romantic love. It’s a quaint cartoon image. But beneath the layers of saccharine sentimentality lies something very true – that love is born of a broken heart. The myriad of young people who suffer emotional depression, I would wager, suffer because no one has told them that Cupid is indeed the reason for their misery. But the real Cupid is no pudgy toddler giggling as he flings his dull-pointed dart in fun and frolic. Rather, he is a fierce and flaming angel whose pointed steel sears and melts both heart and soul. The feelings that result are spelled out in today’s Gospel of Beatitude: poverty and hunger, sadness, rejection and loss.

The power of today’s gospel is radically revolutionary: the unexpected truth that it is precisely from those “negative” feelings that blessedness is born. Wounds make the body (and the soul) tender, and tenderness makes way for blessing. But there’s a very thin line between sadness and joy, between sickness and health. What the world judges a curse, Christ claims as a blessing.

No comments:

Post a Comment