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Spirituality of the Readings
4th Sunday of Ordinary Time
January 29, 2017
John Foley, SJ

Blessed Are You, If …

In this week’s Gospel Jesus tells the Beatitudes to us. We admire especially the blessings for those who are helpers of others: peacemakers, mercy givers, seekers of fairness. We recall, for instance, Mother Teresa.

But then we notice the poor, and it is hard to see why they rate so highly. Do you know? And those who grieve? How about the ones that people insult and persecute and accuse falsely? Should these folks count themselves happy and blest? It can seem that Jesus’ heart is reserved especially for those who are troubled.

Those who grieve, who are meek, who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, who are insulted, persecuted and accused, and, again, those who are poor

The world and its leaders might have compiled a different list. Blest are you if you are rich. If you have never been forced to grieve for loved ones. Blest are you if you are adequate and free of enemies and well spoken of at all times. “The good life” is what everybody wants for themselves and their friends, isn’t it?

But then why did our savior, go in the opposite direction? All the way to the cross.

Could it be because riches and honor can be lures that lead us far from God and Jesus—and from our real selves? Try this:

  • Riches tempt us to let our possessions substitute for who we really are.
  • Honor tempts us to take things easy. To bask in human respect, to never ask who God created when he made the person I am, out of nothing.

Go where God’s love is quietly present.
To put it simply, reputation and possessions can become a false identity. They are “out there” instead of “in here.” Within each of us, “in here,” is the gift of the unique, irreplaceable person that we are. Sometimes a quiet voice from within gasps out the words, “I am your real self but you have covered me over with tributes and belongings and popularity and success. You are smothering me. Help!”

So do we continue acquiring? Soon we may be told to let go of our first-world achievements, as Jesus was.

I love the ancient story about the wise man who was ejected from a dinner party because he was dressed in rags and tatters. He left, and returned in sumptuous, silken garments, borrowed but just right for the gathering. Of course he was well received. Then after a while someone noticed him sitting on the floor behind a potted tree, spooning food down the sleeve of his garment. The host came over, furious. “What in the world are you doing?”

  “Well,” said the wise man, “obviously it is not me who was invited to the party but my clothes. I am letting them enjoy the dinner.”

God loves the “real self” within each of us instead of the clothes we wear or the esteem we achieve. God calls us to be persons who are loved and who love in return. The erratic things—what we own, what honors we receive, how filled with pride we are—these just get in the way. Sometimes tragically.

So, maybe every one of the beatitudes makes deep sense. Go where God’s love is quietly present. Become a home for the people of this earth, helping them receive their blessing. And receiving our own as well.

Be disadvantaged and then count your blessings.
John Foley, SJ


 * Gerard Manley Hopkins, Patience, Hard Thing

Fr. John Foley, SJ is a composer and scholar at Saint Louis University.
Art by Martin Erspamer, OSB
from Religious Clip Art for the Liturgical Year (A, B, and C).
This art may be reproduced only by parishes who purchase the collection in book or CD-ROM form. For more information go