Thursday, February 25, 2010

02-14-2010: Sixth Sunday Ordinary Time

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jeremiah 17:5-8 / Psalm 1 / 1 Corinthians 15:12,16-20 / Luke 6:17,20-26
Today’s Gospel of Beatitude (being blessed) coincides, providentially, with Valentine’s Day (being loved) – both proving 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, of making a gesture? Is it, perhaps, a feeling that sinks through the pores of the skin and frees the body from the weight of gravity. Angels can fly, someone once said, because they take themselves lightly. Perhaps the key to meaning lies in the poet’s use of tenderness.

Tenderness can connote kindness, gentleness; but, also, vulnerability, a soreness of sorts. In French the word blessure translates, oddly, not as “blessing” but “wound.” Perhaps, then, 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 young hearts to awaken romantic love. It’s a quaint cartoon image. But beneath the layers of saccharine sentimentality lie something very true – that love is often 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. They “fall” for belief in the falsehood that authentic love can only encompass feelings of happiness. But the real Cupid is no pudgy toddler, giggling as he flings his dull-pointed dart in fun and frolic; rather, he’s a fierce and flaming angel whose pointed steel sears and melts both heart and soul. “Love,” Dorothy Day would write, “is a harsh and dreadful thing.” The Gospel of Beatitude – the formula for love and joy - is a continuum, a scale so to speak, balancing the woes of poverty and hunger, sadness, rejection and loss with the blessings of wealth, satisfaction, acceptance and love. The key to joy, it seems, is to see them as both/and – not either/or.
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 (the heart and the soul) tender to the touch, while longing for the touch that heals. Cupid’s spent-arrow makes for a very thin line between pain and pleasure, between sadness and joy. But what the world judges to be a curse, the Gospel of Beatitude understands as a blessing.

No comments:

Post a Comment