Reading I: Jeremiah 17:5-8
Psalm: 1:1-2, 3, 4, 6
Reading II: 1 Corinthians 15:12, 16-20
Gospel: Luke 6:17, 20-26
In casual conversations and social media posts, “blessing” often gets sprinkled in when people have something share-worthy to celebrate. We have seized upon, at least for a fleeting moment, an object, an opportunity, a relationship that sparks joy in us and might even arouse envy in others who do not have something comparable. #Blessed has become a humblebrag hashtag.
But identifying with God’s blessed ones seems to mean something quite different, something we might not share eagerly. “You are blessed,” Jesus says, “you who are poor . . . who are now hungry . . . who are now weeping . . . when people hate you.” Jesus tells people who are probably not feeling especially lucky or privileged that God favors them and finds them fortunate. If this is the blessing of God, do we want to be blessed?
Blessing here, however, is ascribed not to positions of power or prestigious possessions but to people. Surprising as it might have been to them, people who have little left to lose are blessed first of all as they are but also as people with potential. They want a chance and a change, which opens a way to wanting God and wanting what God wants for them. Hope for change overrides fear of what accommodating change will cost. Therefore, agreeing to make room for change becomes relatively easy for them. God blesses the people without a place, the couple without a child, the world without a savior. There is an inherent human appeal in this kind of hope that even my preschooler can appreciate. In the Disney film Encanto, the main character Mirabel is the only one born into the magical Madrigal family without an obvious gift to share with the world. Of course, she is the one who longs for blessing the most. “Waiting on a miracle,” Mirabel sings, “bless me now as you blessed us all those years ago.”
The ones Jesus calls blessed are capacious in a way that the full, rich, laughing, and popular people cannot be unless they too open themselves to change in the other direction. Metanoia is a mandate for all, but accepting the call of conversion will be much easier for some than for others. Blessings can multiply, but so too can woes. Woe then, to those who don’t want change, who fear what they will lose if they change—or if the world around them changes too much. Woe to those who are healthy, for they are not immune from suffering. Woe to those who esteem their genetic inheritance as a sign of social superiority, for, in favoring those who look and think like them, their interpersonal encounters will be impoverished. Woe to those who delight in being deemed “normal,” for they are blind to beauty in difference. Woe to those who cherish circumstance but neglect charity. “Cursed is the one who trusts in human beings,” the prophet Jeremiah conveys, but “Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD.”
The rich who share some of their wealth to enrich to the poor, the glutted who finally deign to let the hungry have a little something, the snickering ones who turn their laughter away from others and toward themselves in humility, the people-pleasers who finally surprise those who supposedly matter by challenging their expectations – they have made room, even a small, reluctant starting space, for God to enter their lives and fill them up. If this is God’s blessing, do we want God?
Liturgical blessings teach us a pattern of praise and petition. We begin blessing God for who God is and for what we have already received from God who is good. Then, in light of who God is and who we are as God’s blessed ones, we dare to ask for still more so that it might be God who fills us, heals us, and loves us into fullness of life. For example, “Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you: fruit of the earth and work of human hands, it will become for us the bread of life.” In light of Christ’s self-emptying love directed toward all of creation, we as hungry people may receive blessing in bread, life even in death. “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” If we want God to dwell among us and within us, do we dare ask God to bless us?