How can the poor be truly blessed?

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez (The Freeman) - November 19, 2020 - 12:00am

One of my purposes in going back to Israel a few years back was to visit the Mount of Beatitudes, to pray inside the Byzantine Church where Saint Pope John Paul II celebrated mass in 2000, and hopefully to unravel the meaning of the blessedness of the poor. Of course, the poor in spirit is easy to discern, it is that deep longing, the persistent craving, if you will, for the Supreme Being as creator, savior and Lord.

The Mount of Beatitudes is located in the northwestern shores of the Sea of Galilee, somewhere between Capernaum and Genesaret, in the southern slopes of the Korazim Plateau. It is also near Bethsaida from where the apostles John and James as well as Peter and Andrew were called by the Lord, Jesus. The fathers of those two sets of brother were partners in their fishing business. They were called to leave the mundane occupation of being fisher folks and transform themselves fishers of men. Which they did without much equivocation. To my mind, the apostles were the first people who were poor in spirit. They were blessed with an inner longing to put meaning into their dreary lives of merely looking for means of livelihood. I have no problem understanding the phrase poor in spirit. They are truly blessed. What I cannot grasp is how can those who are starving be considered blessed.

The truly poor are those who, like the widows, the orphans and the lame, the blind and the lepers, are stretching their hands to beg for food. I think of these people nowadays during the pandemic, which is being exacerbated by a series of typhoons. Homes have been destroyed, people are hungry, soaked in flood and stretching their hands for ayuda. The truly poor do not have food, their houses were blown away by strong winds, and when they come together in the evacuation centers, they expose themselves to COVID infections. When they wade their bare feet in the dirty waters, they open themselves to leptospirosis. These are the people I am thinking about when I think of the beatitudes. The question that keeps on coming back to me is "How can these poor people be considered blessed?”

How can the poor farmers who lost all their rice crops to the typhoons be considered blessed? How can the fishermen who find all their boats broken or lost be imbued with blessedness? How can the urban poor and informal settlers along the river banks be considered blessed in the face of too much devastation, deaths, diseases and damages. How can we consider the poor teachers blessed when they have to plead for contributions from the public to fund the purchase of papers and ink for the printing of modules. These poor public servants have to climb mountains and cross rivers in order to deliver the modules to the homes of pupils in far-flung hinterlands and small islands. These small guys are doing all the dirty, difficult and dangerous tasks and their big shots in DepEd are proudly claiming sterling achievements before the president and the nation. Are these guys also blessed?

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