Sunday, January 29, 2017, Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Whenever I read and ponder Jesus’ Beatitudes, I cannot help but think of Notre Dame de Namur Sister Dorothy Stang after hearing about her courageous stand.  She taught in U.S. Catholic schools for many years, then in 1966 decided to go to Brazil as a missioner; to live and minister among the indigenous people there.  From what I’ve read, it’s clear how beloved Dorothy was by the “poor of the land” as Scripture has it.

In recent years, illegal logging began to be practiced in the Amazon Rain Forest, disrupting the livelihood of these people; a glaring injustice in her eyes and among those concerned with the poor.  Dorothy became a vocal and prophetic voice on their behalf, so much so she received death threats.  Yet, she was not deterred.  As she put it, “the death of the forest is the end of our life”; not only locally, but globally since the Rain Forest is believed to be the “lungs” of the earth.  In a letter, she writes:

I light a candle and look at Jesus on the cross and ask for the strength to carry the suffering of the people.  Don’t worry about my safety.  The safety of the people is what’s important.

On Saturday, February 12th, 2005 Sister Dorothy Stang stood her ground; literally.  There, in the Rain Forest—in Anapu, Para—and faced with loggers and irate ranchers, she opened her Bible and began to read the Beatitudes to them.  She was shot to death as she read; martyred and as the embodiment of Christ’s sacrifice.  She was a voice for the voiceless; for people who sought land reform to safeguard their lives from such greed.  Again, Sister Dorothy’s words:

We can’t talk about the poor.  We must be poor with the poor and then there is no doubt how to act.

This 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time we listen to the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12a); what has been called the heart of Jesus’ message.  “Blessed are the poor in spirit” Jesus begins, “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  In Greek, this phrase “poor in spirit” means: “those who know their need for God”.  When, without a doubt we know such need deep in our bones, then we’ll begin to see that our hope must be centered in God above all; seeing life against an “infinite horizon”.    It is then we’ll know “how to act” and “not lose sight of the forest for the trees.”

Father Tim Clark, Pastor


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