By Fr. Tim Knepper, C.PP.S.
Before their 30 years together on The Tonight Show, Ed McMahon became the announcer for Johnny Carson on a game show called Who Do You Trust? At first it was set up as a husband-wife game show, but then changed to men and women paired together. The show’s concept was that the pair would be asked a question and if he trusted his female partner, he could pass to his female partner to answer the question. Like anything Johnny Carson did, the show was hilarious and filled with hijinks, especially when the female partner answered wrong. Trust between the pairs on the show was the central point, and sadly was funny when that trust went wrong.
Today’s readings point us in the same direction, but not in the style of a game show. In the first reading, we see trust front and center, along with blessings and curses. If we put our trust in humans for strength, we will be cursed. If we place our trust in God, we will be blessed. Our notions of blessing and curses today are a bit different from the biblical notions. We see people blessed who put trust in themselves sometimes. We also see people seemingly cursed who have put their trust in God. We know there has to be something more to blessing and curses than just what seems like being successful.
The Gospel gives us Luke’s version of the beatitudes, with both blessings and woes. Maybe one way of seeing the woes Luke offers is to think of them as curses like in the first reading. We think of the rich, the filled, the laughing, and the well-spoken of as being blessed, but Jesus reverses the way we think of blessing and curses, that those who are far off are blessed.
The poor, the hungry, the weeping, the hated, the excluded and the insulted are blessed in the beatitudes. The excluded and marginalized are detached from trusting in their riches, possessions, or reputation. Because of it, they’re able to trust in God in a way others can’t. Jesus tells the disciples and us that this true blessing doesn’t come from our hands and our actions.
Blessing comes from God’s hands and actions, especially those excluded and marginalized. Our trust in God reminds us that we are utterly dependent upon God’s grace. Our experience of blessing from God leads us to trust God more. Hopefully, if Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon ever had us on their show and we were paired with God, we would always place our trust in God to give the right answer.