ColumnsNaming Grace

Do we weep or laugh?

In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain disrupts the crowd: “Blessed are the poor, the hungry, those weeping and those who are hated on account of the Son of Man. … But woe to the rich, those who are filled now, those who laugh now, when all speak well of you.” The first reading from Jeremiah sets the sharp contrast: “Cursed is the one who trusts in human beings …  he is like a barren bush in the desert. Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD … he is like a tree planted beside the waters … [and] bears fruit.”

They voted, they cheered, and then lit the One World Trade Center in New York City in pink to celebrate the most aggressive abortion rights legislation on the books. This is “choice” in America. With one in every three pregnancies ending in abortion, and touting abortion until birth, New York is literally choosing to be “a barren bush …  a lava waste … .” We weep as they cheer.

As a way of showing the administration’s “zero tolerance” approach to illegal immigration, parents and children were separated at the border. Some cheered even as children were ripped from their parents’ arms. Though the president eventually signed an executive order ending these separations, some family members re­main separated while the debate on immigration rages on. Without comprehensive immigration reform, the border areas dry up as “a barren bush in the desert …  a lava waste … .” We weep as they argue.

The choice is always ours: Do we weep or do we laugh? Do we choose fruitfulness or barrenness? Do we choose a blessing or a curse? Christianity demands that we uphold the sanctity and dignity of human life. As disciples, we are called to work against a culture of death, greed and racism to bring about the fruit of a more just society. Throughout history, Christians wept, worked and prayed while others laughed.

This can be hard, especially for those who like to be liked. Yet Jesus does not soft sell Christian discipleship: “Woe to you when all speak well of you.” I have a friend who I tease as “the most hated person on Facebook.” He takes stances according to the principles of Catholic social teaching; he weeps for the unborn, the poor, families separated at the border, those discriminated against in the criminal justice system … and you name it. The beatitudes are not political; they are about following Jesus. Blessed are those who weep.

As parents/grandparents, we plant seeds for fruitfulness in our children by teaching them to place their trust in God, not in human beings. We form our children to see all decisions through the eternal, for their “reward will be great in heaven.” We name grace — God’s life-affirming presence — when standing for the bullied or working for the underprivileged. We teach our children to weep over — and work against — any assault on human dig­nity or human life.

Traditionally, pink represents the joyous birth of a baby girl, the heroic fight against breast cancer or the anticipation of our Lord on Gaudete Sunday. Sadly, New York has desecrated the color pink, as it now represents the death of the inno­cents and the degradation of women. We weep. We work. We pray. Through Jesus’ resurrection, we also know death and destruction never have the final word, and someday we “will laugh.” Now, that’s good news!

When have you wept over an injustice?

How will you form your children in Catholic social teaching?

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