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The beatitude of the invisible

· ​Meditation ·

Luke 21:1-4

Today the Gospel teaches us to recognize Jesus as the narrative of God, not only by his words and gestures but also by his gaze. And we recognize in him the gaze of the Lord God recounted from the beginning of the Bible, that gaze – the seed and fruit of his compassion – which started and still accompanies the history of salvation.

Just as God heard the blood of Abel, the thirst of Ishmael in the desert, the suffering of the foreigners in Sodom and the cry of the harsh slavery of Israel in Egypt without ever detaching his gaze from the pain that he heard, so God always hears and looks at what we ourselves have no wish either to hear or to see. The poor and the suffering people, in all their ancient and new forms which the Bible sums up with the phrase, “the foreigner, the orphan and the widow”, are the macroscopic evidence of history which we do not want to see.

Fausto Podavini, “The Black Side of South Africa”

We who are terribly afraid of poverty and exclusion as the deposit and foreshadowing of our death, avert our eyes from unfortunate or poor wretches as if merely looking at them might infect us. We make them invisible to us and always pass by them as if there were a beyond in which to seek and serve the Lord (cf. Lk 10:32) and as if it was not the Lord himself who comes to seek us in poor, needy and suffering people (cf. Mt 25). Instead it is the elaborately dressed rich, as the Letter to James reminds us (cf. 2:5-7), who attract our gaze and our praise, regardless of whether it is respectful and/or envious.

However, Jesus does the contrary and bestows blessedness on the poor and the invisible. Here, in the temple, Jesus sees the rich who put offerings into the treasury and he also sees a poor widow do the same. Jesus had just given a warning to beware of those who pretend to be pious in order to show themselves off. Hypocrisy, striking pious and pure poses while instead living by preying on the homes of widows, robbing the poorest of the poor, is aimed at attracting people’s admiration. Today Jesus teaches us to look at what does not attract our gaze, which, for this very reason, is the privileged object of God’s gaze. Like the Servant of the Lord who has neither beauty nor splendour to attract our eyes, like the just and the victims of history who we would often like to have removed from our sight, the poor widow is pointed out to us by Jesus as the revelation she was to him: that evidence which to us remains hidden. In this poor women who gives all she possesses, with the freedom of those who are invisible, Jesus sees the invisible love of our God who gave himself to us in his Word and in his Spirit. He remains enchanted by her and holds her up as an icon for those who want to follow him: trusting in the Lord, loving without giving a thought to her own life.

In this gesture of totally free giving, Jesus sees the story of his own life and also his own blessedness. In her he sees his own expending of himself and giving without calculation, his own freedom and beatitude, that of those who trust only in the tenderness of the Lord’s gaze and can love with the whole of themselves. Like the merchant who, full of joy, sells everything he has to buy the precious pearl which is closeness to the Lord. In the same way he would recognize himself in the act, judged by the disciples to be a scandalous waste, of the woman who poured the most precious nard over his head not long before he was killed, the only person who at that time had a glimpse of the truth of Jesus.

It is with a view to blessedness itself that Jesus implores us not to pay attention to appearances, because it is sad to abandon interiority in order to attract to oneself the gazes of others instead of being responsible for one’s own gaze at others. As always, the Gospel is overwhelmingly up to date: never until today, perhaps, has social value lain in appearance on a screen, not in order to see but in order to be seen and admired.

With his penetrating gaze Jesus wants to comfort all the invisible ones, rendered such by our anguished and mundane gaze which excludes them, and to awaken us all to this same consolation.

The Sisters of Bose




St. Peter’s Square

Oct. 21, 2019