Be a Blessing

Proclaim Sermons
Homily: Ordinary Time 6
February 13, 2022
Reproduced with Permission
Proclaim Sermons

Summary : The Beatitudes demonstrate God's commitment to valuing the people he created. Will we hold up our responsibility to show love to each other?

An elderly gentleman spent decades living homeless in an urban setting. Though he is now housed, when he reflects on those days, he says that the biggest gift anyone could have given him was a simple "Hello" or "Good morning." He didn't have money to give gifts himself, but made a point to acknowledge the humanity of the people around him. So often, he says, he simply felt invisible and less than human.

So often, what we value in people is what they can produce or how much monetary value they give back to the economy. We monetize the value of people based on what they do and how productive they are. The outward sign of this value is the type of things someone can buy, be it top-end cars, spacious houses, luxury vacations, five-star restaurants or organic food. These are signs of material success. These are signals of wealth.

When a person is homeless, they are thought to be worthless because it is assumed that they do not produce anything of value. They do not have a big home on a corner lot or a sports car. They can't buy gifts or have dinner at restaurants with tablecloths. Therefore, for many, they do not warrant so much as eye contact.

This particular man, however, managed to help others on the street get what they needed. He picketed city hall when shelters were on the brink of closing for lack of funding. He carried food-stamp applications with him and helped young mothers fill them out. He diffused tense situations between police officers and hot-headed young men. He brought so much value to his community, but not in ways that are typically rewarded by our society.

Someone recently asked whether it was drug addiction or mental illness that was the greatest contributing factor to homelessness. It's neither. It's the lack of affordable housing. The truth is that the way our economy and society work ensures that someone will always be homeless.

The question about the root cause of homelessness comes from genuine curiosity and ignorance, but it does give pause to wonder: Is it just assumed that some people with certain circumstances don't deserve a home?


The Beatitudes, or "blessings," assure us that we are always valued and affirmed in God's eyes. The poor and hungry are not pitied before God as they sometimes are in our social circles. When God sees us, we are not valued by what is in our bank account or by our address or the car in our driveway. When God sees us, God sees a one-of-a-kind child of God. God doesn't measure our circumstances.

Although we often treat people with fewer resources as though they are "low class," God does not. Those who are flush with riches are already self-assured, already have the vote of confidence of those around them and are already valued and affirmed by their society. God provides assurance to those who do not feel this from others.

The assurance of God's blessing does not mean that the kingdom of God levels all the unevenness of our social hierarchies. We are called to be caretakers of each other, a calling that is part of who we were created to be in Genesis. We are partners with God in repairing the brokenness and unfairness we experience in our world. God's affirmation of the worth and value of every human will not fill bellies or house people. We must uphold our responsibility to each other and meet God's blessing with the tangible evidence of human dignity and worth.

People, not circumstances

Jesus warns us that our whole lives are just a set of circumstances. He warns priests that tax collectors and prostitutes will be ahead of them in the kingdom of God.1 Our lives are about more than how righteous we can be. We are not the things we do or the experiences we have. The kingdom of God is about addressing the humanity of the people we meet before we address their circumstances. Circumstances can change, but the image of God will always be present in the people we meet.

A recent community Facebook page featured a photo of the empty shelves at a local church food pantry. After a morning of food distribution there was almost no food left for the midweek distribution. The post was pleading with the community to please donate food so that others would not be hungry.

So many things about the photo were upsetting. First, there must be a better way to distribute necessities like food more equitably. That some people must depend on local church pantries and the kindness of others to meet their basic human needs just seems so wrong. Can't we do better? Beyond that, though, it is upsetting that the shelves could ever possibly be empty in a relatively wealthy community. Collectively, there are enough resources to make sure that the shelves are never bare.

A 7-year-old boy recently asked why we can't just give people homes and food. In his young mind, having a home is not optional -- the same way having food is not optional. Every person needs a home. So, why do some people have them and others don't? Why can't we just give every person a home? Why can't everyone just have dinner every night? Why is it so hard?

I have to admit that I don't know, but I wish we could just give everyone the things they need to be alive and to be human. The truth is, we do treat people as less than human if it happens that they cannot afford the things to support their humanity: food, water, clothing, shelter or good safe sleep.

Love each other

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day. Although it has turned into a mushy holiday filled with overpriced greeting cards and heart-shaped chocolates, it is still a day to celebrate love and what it means to love each other. St. Valentine was known for marrying couples when Christians were being persecuted in Rome. We seem to remember him only with extravagant stories of star-crossed lovers, but St. Valentine helped people help each other. Not only did he affirm the necessity of relationships, but he did so under penalty of death. St. Valentine must have known that Christianity would not survive if people could not relate to each other, if relationships could not be honored even if it was only one couple at a time. We need each other. People need community to survive. We need relationships. We need love.

Even when we are not assured of the love of the people nearest us, God loves us. When we are not sure of our self-worth, God makes us worthy. When others do not treat us with dignity, God honors our humanity. This will always be true because God is steadfast. God's faithfulness will not fill the void of human need, however. We need each other when we are hurt. We need each other when we are hungry. We need each other when we are cold, naked or without shelter. Human relationships are just as important as our relationship with God. God cannot replace neighbor.

We have a responsibility to each other that no one can fill for us. We must love and care for each other, not because we should , but because no one else can do it quite the way we can. You are the only one with your particular skills and talents and you are the only one who can show love and care the way you do. Love your neighbor. Love God. Love yourself.


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