“the poor will stop being poor,” announces jesus christ
RACHEL Once again we’re in contact with our studios at Emisoras Latinas. We find ourselves still here on the Mount of the Beatitudes, alongside the beautiful Lake Galilee, and we continue our interviews with Jesus Christ, who many years ago pronounced in this very same place one of the most important discourses in the history of humankind.
JESUS I don’t know if it was all that important, Rachel, because I was just repeating what all the prophets had already declared centuries before.
RACHEL Let’s go back to the words you used. When you said “Blessed are the poor”, you were referring to… to…
JESUS To the poor. There’s no need to go around in circles – or else you’re going to get seasick, like when you sail far from shore.
RACHEL Yes, but…
JESUS Rachel, it’s very simple. God gets infuriated when he sees how things are going in this world.
RACHEL Because of the many sins people commit…
JESUS The greatest of all sins, do you know what it is? It’s when rich people eat twice as much as they need and leave poor Lazarus outside with his plate empty.
RACHEL I remember a parable of yours that talks about that.
JESUS God becomes furious when he sees so many injustices – little boys without a crust of bread, starving to death; little girls without a decent dress to cover themselves, dying of cold… That is the world’s great sin. God refuses to put up with such a situation.
RACHEL Some people would take that as a political statement.
JESUS It’s bound to sound that way to them, because I proclaimed the arrival of God’s Kingdom on earth, not in heaven. It is a kingdom of justice, where nobody goes without as long as others have in abundance. And I declared that God takes sides in this struggle.
RACHEL What does that mean exactly, that God takes sides?
JESUS God fights on our side, the side of the poor. You don’t remember when the disciples of John the Baptist came to see me? They wanted to know who I was and whether my message was from God. I told them Go and tell John that I am announcing the good news to the poor.
RACHEL Well, announce it now to our audience. What is that good news?
JESUS The good news of yesterday and today is that God wants the poor to be poor no longer. The good news is that they are going to stop being poor, that they are going to be freed from their poverty, that the hungry will have food to eat!
RACHEL Some people will claim that such a message is too materialistic.
JESUS For someone who is hungry, nothing is more spiritual than a piece of bread. When a hungry person eats, he chews on God in every grain. No, the good news is not that the poor will go up to the kingdom of heaven, it’s that the kingdom of heaven will come down to the poor. The good news is not a promise for tomorrow, it’s a blessing for today. Now is the time.
RACHEL All this you’re saying is very different from what many people preach in the churches.
JESUS I don’t know what they might be preaching nowadays, but they’ve told me that the disciples of the first communities lived with that spirit. They shared everything together, they owned everything in common.
RACHEL Why is it that the first Christians understood this, but so many people now don’t understand?
JESUS Many people were scandalized by me. They changed my words, they sweetened them. And worst of all, they forgot the second part of the discourse that I spoke here, on this very mountain.
RACHEL There’s a second part?
JESUS Yes, do you want to hear it?
RACHEL Of course, Mr. Jesus Christ, but after a short commercial break. Rachel Perez. Emisoras Latinas, broadcasting from the Mount of the Beatitudes. Go ahead, studios!
ANNOUNCER Another God is Possible. Exclusive interviews with Jesus Christ in his second coming to Earth. A production of María and José Ignacio López Vigil, with the support of the Syd Forum and Christian Aid.
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In the tradition of the prophets
The beatitudes proclaimed by Jesus as good news for the poor continued the tradition of the great prophets of Israel, for whom the poverty caused by oppression and exploitation was a scandal that offended against life and therefore against the will of God. The prophets taught that the poverty of “the widows and orphans” – who were emblematic of misery and marginalization in those days – had to be rejected, combated and eliminated if people wanted to be faithful to God. That was what the law and the prophets preached, and what Jesus preached also. For them poverty was not seen as a fated destiny, but as the consequence of the power that some human beings had over others.
Lazarus and the rich man
One of Jesus’ most famous parables is that of the rich man and the poor Lazarus (Luke 16,19-31). It is typical of the narratives found in all cultures which express people’s indignation in the face of injustices and their desire that God bring about justice for the poor.
God in every grain
The Korean feminist theologian Chung Hyun Kung, in her book Struggle to be the Sun Again (Orbis Books, 1990), gives the following summary of the ideas of a poor woman living in a famine-stricken zone of India:
Without food there is no life. When people who are starving to death eat, they experience God in every grain of food. They know and taste God when they chew each grain. Food gives them life. For those who are starving the greatest love of God is food. When a grain from the earth sustains life, they discover the meaning of the phrase: “This is the way God loved the world: he sent his beloved Son.” When God gives them food through other dedicated human beings, God gives them his beloved Son, Jesus Christ.
Liberation theology, which developed in Latin America during the sixties and seventies, used the beatitudes as a key text for promoting and developing a revolutionary interpretation and practice of Jesus’ message. As the only predominantly Christian region of the Third World and as the continent with the greatest inequality between rich and poor, it was fitting and proper that Latin America should be the place where Jesus’ original message on behalf of the poor was rescued by theologians, communities, organizations, religious, and even bishops.
Latin American liberation theology developed many different perspectives in its efforts to free Christian theology from its Eurocentric captivity, and of course it provoked challenges to the doctrinal, spiritual and moral hegemony of the Roman Catholic church in the continent.
Liberation theology understands theology not as a theoretical exercise, but as a critical reflection on our practice or way of life. Such theology is understood not as a mere affirmation or recitation of truths, but as taking a stand before questions of life and death. Liberation theology places human welfare at the center of its concerns, and it finds in our human reality, especially the injustices people commit against one another, not only an object of analysis, but also the grounds for commitment. It places more importance on “orthopraxis” (right practice) than on “orthodoxy” (right thinking). It understands history as a permanent process by which humanity moves forward, toward collective and individual liberation, and it proposes that Christians should participate actively in that history by prophetically denouncing injustices and announcing the way of liberation. Liberation theology promotes consciousness-raising evangelization that allows people to pass from a magical, providentialist understanding of reality to a critical consciousness that is fully committed to the cause of justice and peace.
Liberation theology rescues the real Jesus of history and gives a profound embodiment to the political dimension of his message. It recovers and renews the preaching of the great Old Testament prophets. It places more emphasis on structural sin than on individual sins. It insists that our relationship with our neighbor, especially our poor neighbor, is the center of Christian faith, and it teaches that being “converted” to our neighbor is the ultimate meaning of spirituality.