How can we be cursed? Let’s count the ways! We can be cursed with an inattentive spouse, rebellious children, busybody in-laws, impatient creditors, sickly and lazy co-workers, an over-stuffed schedule, a small salary, bad insurance coverage, no retirement plan, insomnia, depression, binge-eating, binge-drinking, another form of emotional illness, another form of addiction, repair bills, tax bills, grocery bills, tuition bills, car payments, house payments, and so on and so on. We can also be cursed with spiritual apathy, a hard heart, a weak will, an easily fooled intellect, a bag of vices and not many virtues, a love of money and all the seven cardinal sins. So, we can be cursed physically, spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, financially, and domestically. And how does this happen? How do we end up cursed? Jeremiah says, “Cursed is the one who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh, whose heart turns away from the Lord.” When we expect our blessings to come from the flesh—other people, other flesh—we, in effect, turn from God and look to a creature to give us what only the Father can give: abundant, fertile blessings, everything we need to live and thrive. Blessings may come through other flesh, but they always originate with God—He is the only source, even if one of us might do the heavy lifting.
If I were to ask you to name your blessings, to call out the great things that God has done for you, how many here I wonder would call out: God has blessed me with poverty! God has blessed me with hunger! God has blessed me with mourning and tears! God has blessed me with hateful neighbors who exclude and insult me! How many here could lift up their curses in thanksgiving and praise God for their troubles? Are you prepared to give God thanks for your failures, your diseases, your daily crashes and crippled faith? It is no easy thing to celebrate weakness, destitution, illness, emptiness, and despair. It is no easy thing to lift your eyes to heaven and say, “Thank you for my trials, Lord, thank you for my suffering!”
No doubt you are thinking about now: Father is cracked! He’s gone off the rail and is running on his last rim! Not at all. I’m preaching the gospel. And sometimes that means starting with the strange and racing head-long into the stranger still. Jesus teaches the Twelve that all those we routinely think of as cursed—the poor, the hungry, the mournful, the despised—all of them are, in fact, blessed with riches, satisfaction, laughter, blessed by the Christ of the Father and made holy in their imperfection. Jesus plainly teaches his apostles that on the day we are excluded and insulted and denounced for his name’s sake, we are blessed. And so, on that day we must “rejoice and leap for joy…!” In other words, we must give God praise and thanksgiving for how we have suffered, how we have failed, how we have been injured and diseased. And not only that—we must thank Him for our enemies, for those who made us suffer, for those who injured us or dis-eased us.This is the Way of Perfection: to surrender to God wholly, entirely, now and forever, your curses and blessings, your health and your death, your goods and all your debts; to submit your strength, your courage, your stamina and grace, all of your mistakes, successes, your warts and your shiny smile, your wallet or purse and checkbooks, your children, grandchildren, and anyone else you love: place them and place yourself under the eternal strength and sheltering love of the Father, trusting and hoping in His Word to us—Christ Jesus—that we are freed in His grace, perfected in His love, and brought to Him in His power and glory. And that no VISA bill, car payment, nosey mother-in-law, surgery, or toothache possesses the power to poison the blessings that come from His hand to your heart, if (if!) you love…and love excessively, wastefully, painfully all that and those you have willed (up to now) not to love. Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is in the Lord!
How providential! This morning's Mass had an audio recording of Bishop Loverde promoting the 2007 Bishop's Lenten Appeal. I know it is never pleasant for either clergy or laity to give/hear fund raising homilies. I understand the necessity of these appeals. I made my pledge to the appeal a couple of weeks ago. But no matter how the homilist tries to tie the quest for funds into the Sunday readings it feels stretched and false. Therefore, I am grateful that I found a real homily for this Sunday.
Thanks to Argent for this most Providential link!