photo: fr tam nguyen

A young professional felt a stirring in his heart to become a missionary. He confided this to his younger brother who, bemused, asked: “But why do you want to be poor?” What a good question. Who wants to be poor, hungry or tearful? Who wants to be excluded or derided by others?


The Lord Jesus in the gospel today is the only person who openly stands before us identifying himself as poor, hungry, sorrowful, made an outcast. He does not only pronounce the Beatitudes but he himself is the Man of the Beatitudes. To know how Jesus looked like one must view him from the mirror of his teachings in today’s gospel.


The Beloved Son of God, and yet far from being luxurious. King of the Universe and yet renouncing all comfort. Lord and Savior of all and yet bereft of material or financial security. Jesus chose the company of those who languish in pain, suffering and tears. His life ended in the desertion of his friends and the condemnation of his enemies. As he implicitly portrayed himself through the Beatitudes, so too, does he explicitly invite us to take the same road he took.


Today we are re-discovering these precious teachings of Jesus, although in terms that are not explicitly Christian but certainly in human and compassionate ways. Many people are following a lifestyle of minimalism – one that promotes simplicity and reduction of needless waste. In view of the experiences of the pandemic, people have become sensitive not only to their hunger but also to the needs of the poor. They have become more caring and compassionate to people who suffer all kinds of violence and tragedies. Against the backdrop of corrupt governments, people are making unpopular stand against lies, manipulation, and betrayal of public trust.


While these efforts are not a direct response to the Gospel, they are close to the invitation of Jesus to look at the world and ourselves in a different way, in a new way. Some people are more easily drawn to follow the lead of Jesus when they align their lives to his example and to his divine will. However not all people feel a religious inclination immediately. This does not rule out the possibility that the Lord uses other means to teach people and to draw them to take up his challenge.


This week, let us once again listen to Jesus teach us his way and challenge us to embrace his values, his preferences, and his character. May this new encounter with the Beatitudes help us appreciate who Jesus is and help us aspire to become like him slowly but steadily.