One summer we had a program where the teen leaders were supposed to give a reflection to their junior high peers on one of the beatitudes. It was kind of a disaster. The beatitudes are hard enough for well formed, college educated Catholic adults. Badly catechized high school students? Rough. I have always struggled to understand exactly what Jesus is getting at in the beatitudes. For what it’s worth, though, here’s my best shot at one of them that caught my attention in prayer today.
“Blessed you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied” (Luke 6:21). There is nothing inherently holy about poverty. One could easily be starving and evil, in which case the eternal bliss implied by this beatitude would not apply. Also, Jesus makes it clear that we are supposed to try to help the poor by providing for their needs. So, He is not making a blanket statement about those who go without enough food. I think He is speaking about a specific type of hunger. A kind I’ve been feeling lately.
My particular brand is a hunger for a baby who won’t die on us. It’s pretty clear that given our genetics, this is no easy appetite to fill. Any naturally born child of ours has a one in four chance of having Peter and Gia’s condition. The wisdom of the world would suggest one of two options to a couple like us: 1.) render one or both of us permanently infertile and just enjoy the one healthy child we have, or 2.) get some outside help on the next baby making project. Neither one of these are acceptable options for us as Catholics. I can understand why couples turn to such things, I really can. It sucks to lose a child and frankly the thought of going through another medical drama is terrifying. However, I also firmly believe that acting out of fear is also not the solution. I trust the Church and her wisdom.
And so we continue to hunger. We won’t “break the rules” to get what we want, and we suffer for it. This is the hunger that I think Jesus is talking about. In Matthew, it’s “hunger and thirst for righteousness”, which I used to think meant “want what’s right”. Of course, it could still mean that. But I am thinking now of people who are hungering precisely because they did what was right. People who refuse to steal to make the money they need, who get back-stabbed for defending the underdog, or voted out of office for not compromising on principle. The kind of people who are willing to die for their faith, in small or large ways. What can we expect then, from the Lord? (Isn’t that sweet? In your own blog you get to lump yourself in with martyrs!) We will be satisfied. Somehow, some way, this hunger will be filled. And I don’t think He’s just talking heaven here. Somehow, in the end, that desire of my heart will be met, even if not in the way I expect.
And I think the opposite is true, too. Luke includes the “whoa”-atitudes, too. “Woe to you that are full now, for you shall hunger.” Do you think the fruit in Eden tasted really good? Even if it was the sweetest honeycrisp ever, I can guess that once their act sunk in, it was no longer tasty. I don’t believe that taking matters into our own hands- that is, going outside God’s moral laws to fill our hunger- ever really satisfies. I think it solves one problem and causes another, thus, creating more hunger.
I know a woman who conceived in rape and placed the child for adoption while in college. Later she married and had difficulty with miscarriage. Today she has a small family, with a mix of biological and adopted kids. It’s been a rough road for her, and she has struggled with some of the same questions I am facing. She looks back now on her life and is at peace. She can see why God allowed some of the things He did, and how He brought things full circle for her healing. She is so grateful for the life she has been given, even with the pain.
So, I don’t know what God has in store for our family. But I know I will be blessed.