‘Hope blooms in the desert’ was the banner headline of the English Tablet this week…a reflection on the visit of Pope Francis to the Emirates. The banner headline of the Saturday Australian was ‘Farmers of the drought count flood costs’, a reflection on the now abundant green grass and the loss of 450 cattle on St Elmo Station outside Julia Creek.
“How happy are you who are poor” says the gospel today. I am not sure how I would approach the homily in Julia Creek this weekend. I think it would be easier in Abu Dhabi!
The proclamation of the Beatitudes is that of the Prophetic Messiah. Jesus begins to fulfil the words of Isaiah which he uttered in the Synagogue in Nazareth. The new era has begun: whatever he meant on this occasion, his kingdom was to have a focus on the “poor” in Luke, and the “poor in spirit” in Matthew.
Poor is poor in Julia Creek and in Abu Dhabi!
We use the Scripture term, “prophetic”. Others use the expression “the upside-down logic of the gospel”. Our current Pope seems very much at home with this description as he reminded his many listeners in the Emirates that the Beatitudes represent an “overturning of that popular thinking according to which it is the rich and powerful who are blessed, those who are successful and acclaimed by the crowds”. The Pope went on: “just and meek, he did not offer resistance, but allowed himself to be condemned unjustly. In this way Jesus brought God’s love into the world”.
Fulfilling the challenge of the Beatitudes is a never-ending task. Each generation has to tackle it. And we will have a rather challenging task adding the ‘hell and high water’ of the current disasters to the seemingly huge challenges posed by homelessness, to name but one.
The Gospel extends the hand of hope and perhaps cuts through the tangle of red tape that strangles action in our times. In many ways the Pope’s visit was a prophetic sign that things can be different.
Can we, too, in our communities be such a sign of hope?
P.S. For those in Teams, the Bishop of Hamilton NZ will formally inaugurate the Teams Movement in his Diocese. Let’s pray that all goes well.